CodeGeeko coding school for kids comes to SA

Lebone Mano
By Lebone Mano, junior journalist
Johannesburg, 05 May 2021

Considering just how much technology has become an integral part of our lives, it’s become necessary to focus on using it to better serve society at large. This starts with teaching children to code and using coding to enhance their cognitive abilities, according to Divya Sadananda who founded her online coding school, CodeGeeko, on these principles last September.

Sadananda, a biotechnologist who lives in Bengaluru, India, launched CodeGeeko to introduce seven to 16-year-olds to programming through gamification and relying on CodeGeeko’s founding principles (such as setting no expectations, encouraging entrepreneurship and collaboration) to encourage children's holistic development. 

The programme has also launched in Bangladesh, the UK, France, Singapore and the US. South Africa is next on the list.

Teach them to code and then what?

Recent BSc graduate Nomsa Tsotetsi has been involved in a number of coding skills initiatives, including her own Young African Women in Computing (YAWiC). Through YAWiC, Tsotetsi aims to address the lack of gender parity in computer sciences. She also started the JN Coding Club using people’s phones to teach them C# and shell scripting. She went as far as getting her vice chancellor at the Nelson Mandela University to support JN by issuing certificates of completion. But she’s been left with one question: “You teach the children to code and then what?”

Tsotetsi wants to offer her students a richer programming experience, so through online marketplace Freelancer, she contacted Sadananda and asked that CodeGeeko be expanded to South Africa.

Tsotetsi finds that children are intimidated by the idea of coding, and that it is through gamification that the logic behind it can be best understood. She’s also involved in the TANKS coding app, which has pioneered this approach.

“I work in corporate now and I can see the gaps in what I learnt in school. These gaps might make some industry newcomers feel inadequate and break them,” she says.

CodeGeeko uses text-based programming (in languages such as Python, JavaScript and HTML) in line with the internationally recognised Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles and certifications such as IBM’s Developer Skills Network.

“In the real world,” she adds, ‘you need more than just coding skills’.

The programme offers weekly one-on-one sessions with tutors, but learners are encouraged to work in groups of between two and six, and join global sessions to encourage teamwork. Learners also have access to webinars, hackathons and, depending on the package, access to more than a hundred games.

Speaking to ITWeb from Karnataka, India, founder and CEO of CodeGeeko Sadananda says, “Every lesson aims to instil life values such as teamwork and building confidence -- our founding principles include embracing mistakes and reaching out, so we encourage the kids to find errors in each other’s code…a coder should be able to find bugs, after all. This system also encourages them to come out of their shells.”

Third World Problems

While online learning has become a way of life for many, offering children the chance to work with their peers from around the world, issues such as connectivity remain a reality.

Sadananda makes the point, “We have around 15 students in Bangladesh right now and we’ve experienced some connectivity problems. Even here in India, it’s the same thing, children in smaller cities struggle. When we sign up learners, we do the necessary technical checks so when there is a network problem, we can schedule the lesson for another day. We also record the lessons and can share them but we want them online with the teachers because they can ask questions that way, they learn faster.”

Anticipating the same problems in South Africa, Sadananda says her firm plans to approach universities with the hope of using computer labs and to eventually open small CodeGeeko centres.

YAWiC’s Tsotetsi adds that another reason she approached CodeGeeko is the income opportunity it provides her older students. The organisation also trains instructors, aiming to create jobs, particularly for those with disabilities.