HomeStandard PeopleInnovators’ hub: Catch them young, innovate a country

Innovators’ hub: Catch them young, innovate a country

The feedback on our debut column has been encouraging due to the emotive topic on patents that resonated with local innovative minds that felt bullied in glass offices around the country.

innovators’ hub with John Mokwetsi

There is plenty of untapped learning potential of technology in Zimbabwe
There is plenty of untapped learning potential of technology in Zimbabwe

At a later date I will revisit this topic and zoom on what one can do to keep their ideas from intellectual property thieves. Most of the readers of Innovation’s Hub wrote to us and tweeted on the desire to know the politically correct way of patenting ideas without appearing arrogant to the Big Brother nature of organisations that have the lawyers and money to feed on ideas pitched by financially-crippled innovators.

Today I am raising the critical issue of tooling our human resources as a country from a young age to encourage the culture of innovation from primary education.

An anecdote is important.

Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, who gave us the most popular social network in Facebook had an interest in computers from a young age. That is not the most important part of his story. The focal point is when we learn from his biography that his parents hired private computer tutor David Newman to come to the house once a week and work with him.

So I was excited when the founder of Code to Empower, Nobuntu Ndlovu got hold of me to speak on her project that targets children in classrooms across the country. She said the idea to create the organisation was to expose the young to coding languages that would shape their ideas as they grow and assert themselves in various fields.

She said: “We advocate for the use of computer coding for kids in the classroom and believe that the power of code empowers one with critical skills and lays the foundation not only for future tech entrepreneurs, but future app developers of our time and it is crucial for whatever career path one chooses.”

Coding, for the benefit of those who do not know, is according to Ndlovu, a tool that lets you write your story with technology.

“If you can code, you can communicate your ideas with a computer or a programme so they can be brought to life in bigger, brighter, and more creative ways. We want our students to harness this language and apply it to their creativity,” she said.

I ask her to tell us more on how they conduct their work. She explained that it’s a six or 12 weeks computer coding programme, after school, with a class of 15 children per session. The students work in groups of three per session to foster teamwork, idea sharing and to build confidence.

Ndlovu adds: We learn how to code solving real community issues to gain knowledge and skills, working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.”

She has engaged partners who open up their offices for the students to job shadow various roles within their organisation.

“We can spend a day in the IT department or marketing, giving us insight into the industry,” she said.

Despite this great initiative, the question has always been about a shortage of skilled computer programmers at schools, which renders an exercise like this futile or expensive given a parent needs to part with $120 for the child to be in the coding session.

Ndlovu speaks about this challenge: “We connect teachers with developers to help students learn how to code. Our goal is to train teachers so that they feel confident and excited about delivering a coding lesson to their students. Informed and inspiring teachers help create great students who have computational thinking skills and have a thorough understanding of how technology works. Our desire is to have teachers leading coding clubs within their schools.”

With this, I was sold. For more information on the coding classes visit www.codetoempower.co.zw

Do you innovators deserve a day in the sun? E-mail: jmokwetsi@alphamedia.co.zw or johnmokwetsi@yahoo.co.uk. You can follow me on Twitter @johnmokwetsi and Facebook John Mokwetsi.

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