Meet Me Under the Mogonono Tree – We’ll Learn to Code Together

You may have heard the phrase, that not all heroes wear capes. This is true for everyday heroes, Tebby Molebatsi and Phatsimo Raphutshe, who without fame or glory, are creating opportunities for girls and boys across Botswana by teaching them to code.

In 2017 Tebogo (Tebby) Molebatsi started a new tradition for students and teachers at Kgale Hill Junior Secondary School in Botswana. She gathered them under the shade of a Mogonono tree and challenged them to learn how to code.

As a senior Computer Awareness teacher and Africa Code Week (ACW) Ambassador, Molebatsi saw a unique opportunity to empower her students with digital skills education from a very young age. “We have a serious lack of resources in Botswana,” says Molebatsi, “but coding does not need a structure, internet, or any other resources. You can code anywhere as long as you have a device…even at the cattle post during school holidays when students are looking after their parents’ cattle.”

“Under the tree is where we become more relaxed and think better,” adds Phatsimo Raphutshe, SAP Basis Expert for Debswana Diamond Company and Africa Code Week leader. “Nature on its own helps combat the daily stress people meet and improve their mental health. Moreover, we love our big trees and can use them for many reasons, with coding and as shelter.”

Young learners, especially girls, emulate the role models they see. When they encounter strong leaders and mentors, like Tebby Molebatsi and Phatsimo Raphutsi, who are women in top teaching and engineering positions, they have someone real to look up to. Women who can show them how skills in science, technology, engineering and math can not only translate to new career opportunities, but also how those skills can positively change the world as well.

Phatsimo Raphutshe is a qualified computer systems engineer. “I have been working as an SAP Basis admin for 8 years at Debswana.” She was first introduced to ACW in 2016 through her own STEM mentor Hansel Williams. “We started small with our employees kids ‘since charity begins at home’,” she began. “They loved it. We extended [the program] to our mine schools in Jwaneng and Orapa this year. I love SAP with every fiber of my being. So, when they introduced me to ACW, I couldn’t love them more, because I also love community work.”

Africa Code Week is bridging the gender divide in both youth participation and women in leadership. In 2018, more than 46% of ACW participants were female. And notably, many of the program’s strongest leaders are women, as is the case with the Botswana leadership team that includes Tebby and Phatsimo.

“I just want society and all those without resources to know that they too can code too,” says Tebby. Using a free programming language designed for children, she has trained her 700-student school community, in addition to training other students and teachers to teach the curriculum as well. “Students should use their gadgets to code and make their own games, instead of playing the ones already installed.”

Gender equality is a core company value and a strategic priority for SAP’s comprehensive human resources strategy. We’re proud of our ongoing efforts to change the statistics for women in engineering, but there is more work to be done. Programs like Africa Code Week provide SAP with an opportunity to directly impact gender inclusion for the next generation. Through ACW and the rest of our digital skills initiatives portfolio, we will continue to teach 21st-century skills like coding to young learners, girls and boys alike, in more than 93 countries across the world this year.

Writing and understanding code is a universal language and highly sought-after skill. If you want to learn how to code, I invite you to try this free beginners’ Snap! coding course offered through SAP’s Massive Open Online Course platform, openSAP.

This blog first appeared here.