"Africa needs that one singular well impactful event that will get it into the race for development, and I think Technology and IT is it."- Simon Ampah
In the past decade, Africans have come to realize the immense potential of tech and innovation in solving the continent's most basic and primary challenges.
Some of the kids at this year's Coding Boot Camp
The question the Gates Coding Club asks, therefore, is, if Africa is achieving such strides in technology even though it came to the party quite late, what will the next generation achieve if they start earlier.
" This is why we find it necessary to train young children as early as possible, the rudiments of IT and programming. That, according to the Gates Coding Club is the way to catch up with the developed world", co- founder of Gates Coding Club says.
Simon Ampah is a graduate of the University of Cape Coast and co-founder of Simon Mustard , a limited liability company he started with his older brother who is an IT teacher. The brothers started the Coding Club after Simon's initial stint in business selling books. He narrates the story of how he started a book selling business after he was refused a visa into the UK.
" The plan was for me to travel to the UK, work, make some money and come back home to start a business. At the same time, I was brooding over an idea to start selling corporate and inspirational books. But as fate will have it, I was refused the Visa. So right from the British High Consulate, I went straight to the bookshop with the GHC50 I had in my pocket, and started the business. In less than one year, I had made over GHC20,000."
Simon was not fulfilled even though he was making a lot of money from the sale of the books.
" I wanted to make more impact. So when my brother suggested the idea of us teaching kids how to code, it resonated with my values at the particular time. I knew that was a venture that will bring me a lot of fulfilment."
Kids who attended this year's Coding Boot Camp
Simon says that Africa is far behind as far as developing content for the digital space is concerned. He realized that most Internet users in Africa are end-users and not developers. He therefore co-founded Simon Mustard to help reverse this trend through the activities of the Gates Coding Club. They have already introduced coding to some schools as an extra-curricular activity and also through their boot camp which are organized from time to time.
They recently put together a 3-day coding boot camp at the Peak Lyceum School in Tema, community 22. The event brought together about 40 children most of whom were new to coding. The kids learnt the fundamentals of coding and built their own games during the 3-day event. The also learnt about entrepreneurship and leadership from industry experts.
Coding Workshop in progress
"I love to come to the class and write codes because when I code successfully, I can feel the achievement. This makes me happy and proud of myself, said Essilfuah a participant at the boot camp".
“It’s a fun challenge,” said Hilary. “It starts off easy, but then it gets more difficult, but as you get into it, it’s kind of fun.” Hilary also said that making mistakes is part of the enjoyment.
The Gates Coding Club caters for students from primary schools through to high schools. It is the first of its kind in Ghana. Simon says the benefits of coding are enormous because it helps the kids to think logically and breakdown complex problems.
The kids take the day's lessons
"Many parents came to us and told us, oh we finally found a coding school designed for kids. Some parents wondered why this was a one-off event and urged the organizers to continue after the boot camp."
The Gates Coding Club intend to have a meet up with the kids at the end of each month to build upon what they have learnt during the boot camp. He says they put together this boot camp to help Ghanaian kids to catch up with the rest of the world. He reiterated that the future of the world belonged to kids who knew how to code since coding is expected to be a basic requirement for getting into any employment position just as computer literacy is today.
In the medium term, Simon and his team are looking to scale the program up to as many schools as possible. They also looking to do as many private sessions as possible.
According to Mr. Ampah some countries including Australia, Estonia, UK, Finland as well as some state in the United States have already added coding to the basic school curriculum and wondered why Ghana is still using precious instructional hours to teach basic office applications when that time could be better utilized on challenging coding projects.
The Gates Coding Club will undoubtedly groom the core of Ghana's innovators and Coding geniuses for the next generation. The world better watch out.