SAP Africa Code Week, Africa’s biggest digital skills initiative, is celebrating a successful 2020 program that included a switch to all-virtual teaching, the launch of a smartphone app, a continent-wide coding competition and a host of online Train-the-Trainer sessions aimed at empowering teachers with critical digital teaching skills.
The 2020 programme had to contend with the impact of a global pandemic that forced the closure of schools across the continent and left an estimated 250 million youth away from physical classrooms.
Claudio Muruzabal, Regional President Europe Middle East Africa (EMEA) South at SAP and Africa Code Week Executive Sponsor, notes the programme’s impact on enabling sustainable coding learning for youth across Africa. “In the face of immense challenges, ACW’s thriving ecosystem of partners, ambassadors, volunteers, teachers and students stepped up to ensure that girls and boys across the continent could learn the critical digital skills they need to build a better future. The programme’s impact on transforming digital learning at school level is further ensuring every African child has an opportunity to become an active contributor to the global digital economy.”
The ACW vision is to encourage African governments to adopt coding in their national curricula. In a survey conducted in participating countries in 2020, nine African countries indicated that coding is a part of the national curriculum, and ten more indicated they are implementing plans to incorporate coding within their curricula. The survey also found that 87% of respondents agreed that the programme plays an influential role in advancing the adoption of coding curriculum.
Continent-wide competition inspires youth innovation
In a first for the programme, the launch of the continent-wide AfriCANCode Challenge saw youth aged 8 to 16 compete individually or in teams to imagine the ‘future of education’ through a Scratch game and a two-minute video explaining why their concept should win. More than 1,800 youth from 40 African countries participated, with the top 3 winners 10-year old Soliyana Gizaw from Ethiopia, 15-year old Kayla Esterhuizen from South Africa and 16-year old Sara Benmessai from Algeria – all three of whom are girls – announced recently.
Presenting awards to the recipients in Abuja, the Minister of State for Education, Federal Ministry of Education Nigeria, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba stated that the winners of AfriCAN Code Challenge have shown hard work, dedication and commitment.
He revealed that the African Code challenge is aimed at providing support and inspiration to inter-disciplinary teams of 8 – 16 year-old students who are knowledgeable in coding, using Scratch, which inspires innovative and critical thinking in students to improve their digital literacy in Nigeria.
He then commended the positive resolve of the Ministry to expand the Coding and Robotics programme to involve all 104 Federal Unity Colleges, adding that the Ministry has just concluded the coding and robotics training of trainers for all 104 colleges.
Toward equitable access to digital learning
After switching to an all-virtual format, ACW expanded its reach from 37 countries to all 54 countries on the African continent with support from partners including UNESCO, Irish Aid and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), who joined the programme for the first time in 2020.
Albert Nsengiyumva, Executive Secretary at ADEA and official ACW Patron points to the growing need for greater teacher capacity to ensure equitable access to education opportunities for all Africa’s youth. “Seventy percent of countries in sub-Saharan Africa face a shortage of teachers, and many teachers still lack the basic tools and knowledge to effectively teach digital skills. The active support of 20 education ministries across Africa and the on-going efforts at enhancing teaching skills through Train-the-Trainer workshops are welcome developments as the continent prepares for a new era of growth and development.”
To advance equitable access to technology learning and teaching for women and girls, the Women Empowerment Program (WEP) was established with the aim of building and nurturing female leadership in education across Africa. In 2020, the program, coordinated by the ACW implementing and founding partner, the Camden Education Trust (CET), moved online with a new continuing professional development focus that brought together 68 women from 31 countries.
Building toward ongoing sustainable impact
By 2025, two-thirds of Africa’s population is expected to make use of a smartphone, making mobile access to learning resources critical. The introduction of the first-ever ACW app has extended learning and teaching beyond the classroom, with dedicated coding resources available for free in English, French, Portuguese and Arabic on any Android device. Training material within the app was developed by programme partners, including Code.org, UNESCO, MIT and CET.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, the 2020 edition of ACW engaged 1.5 million youth, of which nearly half (48%) were girls. More than 10,500 workshops were hosted across 43 countries, and 21,000 teachers were mobilised through virtual and in-person Train-the-Trainer sessions.
Claire Gillissen-Duval, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for EMEA and Africa Code Week founder and Global Lead at SAP, says the changes introduced to the 2020 programme have layed a foundation for sustainable impact across the continent. “By switching to virtual teaching, expanding access to teacher workshops, breaking into new territories and inspiring youth to develop their solutions to problems in their communities through the AfriCANCode Challenge, ACW is geared to continue playing a vital role in the future of Africa’s youth in a world forever changed by the pandemic.”
For more information about Africa Code Week, visit www.africacodeweek.org