Sixty-four Grade 10 girls spent the last two weeks of their school holidays learning to code at Code for Cape Town (Code4CT)'s all-day introductory coding programme, hosted in Cape Town from 4-16 July.
The programme's second week saw the learners come together under one roof for an overnight Code Camp, hosted at Groote Schuur High School in Cape Town. The Code Camp saw learners working on group projects using coding to address social issues, for example helping teens understand their menstrual cycles and helping people find taxi routes more easily. On top of learning more coding, the students heard from more guest speakers and participated in workshops and sports sessions.
In addition to technical coding skills, the camp taught learners a wide range of relevant "soft" skills, such as using design thinking to design an intuitive user experience; using critical thinking to prioritise functionality; designing a solution to a problem presented by a client and pitching the solution to them; conducting usability testing and user interviews; and effective teamwork.
Starting on 30 July, the learners will attend Saturday classes to further their Web development skills, as well as quarterly mentoring sessions with women in tech careers. They will also have the opportunity to experience company immersions in their school holidays, and be able to enrol in Code4CT's Grade 11 programme next year."This year's programme exceeded our expectations," says Emma Dicks, founder and director at Code4CT. "At the start of the programme, the learners described their feelings towards coding as ‘scared, nervous, [and] excited'. By the end of the first week this changed to ‘excited, creative, powerful and determined'," Dicks reports, adding that by the end of the programme, 100% of the learners wanted to continue to learn coding, and after working on their group projects over 95% of the learners said they felt confident in their ability to use their skills to address a different issue.
Code4CT aims to show young women that coding is easier than they think, that ICT careers are available to them, and that coding is a powerful tool for innovation, said Dicks in an earlier interview discussing Code4CT more broadly.
Young women frequently "self-deselect themselves" from ICT careers, often daunted by gender stereotypes or poor representation of women in ICT fields, said Dicks.
Yet "as soon as girls are given the opportunity to start coding in an environment where they're encouraged to share their ideas and to be supported through something that perhaps was initially daunting, they very quickly grow in self-confidence, and their interest for coding grows," she observed, adding that being offered experience and showed positive role models can make a big difference in young women's involvement in ICT.
After conducting service design workshops with Code4CT learners in May, Leon Jacobs, and Fumani Khumalo, the executive creative director and art director for service design company Havas Boondoggle, voiced that they were impressed not only with the learners' knowledge, but with their enthusiasm and eagerness to continue learning.
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