Vodacom takes #CodeLikeAGirl programme to KZN

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From left to right: Professor Sibusiso Moyo, deputy VC research, innovation and engagement at DUT; Kwazi Mshengu, MEC for education in KZN; and Chris Lazarus, managing executive for Vodacom KZN.
From left to right: Professor Sibusiso Moyo, deputy VC research, innovation and engagement at DUT; Kwazi Mshengu, MEC for education in KZN; and Chris Lazarus, managing executive for Vodacom KZN.

Over 300 young girls between the ages of 14 and 18 from previously disadvantaged schools in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) will have a chance to receive coding and robotics training.

This, as Vodacom in the KZN region, in partnership with the KZN Department of Education and Durban University of Technology (DUT), has unveiled a programme to provide such training.

Dubbed ‘Code like a Girl’, the programme aims to encourage more girls to explore careers that require coding skills, to help them get a start in STEM fields.

Its launch comes as the national Department of Basic Education (DBE) has prioritised addressing SA’s critical skills gap amid the fourth industrial revolution.

The DBE is working on a coding and robotics curriculum thatis envisaged to equip learners in all public schools with skills and competencies for a changing world.

The pilot programme was planned to kick-off at the start of the second quarter, but has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, among other issues.

In a statement, Vodacom notes the ‘Code like a Girl’ programme aims to develop coding skills and valuable life skills for girls aged 14 to 18, and encourages them to consider the uptake of ICT and STEM subjects.

In addition, it provides influential mentors for the girls to inspire them to be passionate about technology and its possibilities. The programme has been implemented in SA, Mozambique, Tanzania, DRC and Lesotho, with over 1 000 young girls trained in 2019.

“The gender disparity between men and women in STEM careers is alarming the world over, especially in emerging economies like South Africa,” says Chris Lazarus, managing executive for Vodacom KZN. “Research shows STEM careers are the jobs of the future, driving innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth and sustainable development.

“We believe there needs to be a concerted effort from government, private sector and academia to encourage young girls still in school to take up STEM subjects and this way close the gap in the field. And that is exactly what we aim to achieve through our #CodeLikeAGirl project. We want a future without a gender gap to ensure diversity and drive innovation in the country.”

The mobile operator says the 300 young girls from KZN will have the opportunity to learn how to code during the 2020 summer school holidays, from 7 to 11 December.

During the week-long training course, learners will be exposed to basic knowledge of computer languages, robotics and development programs, including HTML, CSS, GitHub and Version control, Bootstrap, JavaScript and Basic Computer and Introduction to Coding.

At the end of the week, each girl will know how to develop her own Web site and present her work to the rest of the coding class.

Kwazi Mshengu, MEC for education in KZN, says: “If we are to level the playing field and deal decisively with patriarchy and the gender gap, we need to institutionalise programmes like ‘Code like a Girl’. As a Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal, we appreciate the invaluable partnership with Vodacom and DUT, and we are persuaded that this programme is going to go a long way to advance the interest of our girl learners and bridge the gender divide in our society.”

Professor Sibusiso Moyo, deputy vice-chancellor for research, innovation and engagement at DUT, adds: “It gives us great pleasure to be part of this historical launch of the #CodeLikeAGirl programme in partnership with Vodacom and the Department of Education.

“Girls and/or women make up approximately 50% of the South African population, and leaving out this part of the population in the digitalisation and artificial intelligence advances would have a negative impact on our economy. These young minds will become the next generation of our innovators, mathematicians, engineers, computer scientists and leaders.”

“Projects, such as Vodacom’s ‘Code like a Girl’, have the potential to significantly close the gender gap and inspire young girls to pursue STEM careers in the digital era towards which we are transitioning. I believe that we can ultimately change the outlook of the number of females in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers, enabling those women to become pioneers within the technology space,” concludes Lazarus.

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