Ghana Code Club… an idea worth spreading

Richard Lucas January 2016

Every now and again I come across ideas and projects so worthwhile that I make contact with the people behind them.

BBC Radio has been running a series  “100 Women” and there were impressive broadcasts from Ghana and Uganda.

through which I heard of  Ernestina Appiah here  Founder of Ghana Code Club   and Rasheeda Yehuza of Tech Needs Girls

Rasheeda Yehuza www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p038dxr9

Rasheeda Yehuza 
www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p038dxr9

both episodes are musts – listen to Rasheeda here 

Interesting things have happened as a result of me approaching people I hear on podcasts, see on line, read about in articles. Often I see myself as  doing what Derek Sivers recommends in his famous TED talk as an under rated form of leadership, helping others who are doing great things.

Derek Sivers' "First Follower" TED talk

So I contacted both Tina and Rasheeda offering help, not just because I believe in so doing, but also because I want others to do likewise..

Tina send me a ton of information about what she is doing Ghana Code Club designs step by step project guide for kids using scratch, HTML+CSS and Python. Most of the schools i volunteer in do not have access to internet nor projectors, (We’re working with the Parent Teacher Association in fixing these) until then, there’s no other option but to print out the project guidelines. Each project normally has an average of 15 pages, including challenges for the kid to try out before the next session.We’re using scratch to build a PAINT BOX for example this week, and this project has at least 18 pages, please find attached. There are not less than 100 kids in the first school that need a copy each of the guide, so your money will help print out projects for at least 150 kids, and we shall inscribe your name and logo on our websites as our supporting partner. We shall also establish good relationship with you as gestures like yours is a great honor to us. We’re continually seeking for  funding each week for print outs alone until the schools we volunteer in get projectors and internet connectivity, getting the materials to the kids remain a challenge to us. Another area we need help in is getting our training centre together making it possible for the less privileged children to be taught for free. In Ghana, most government schools where the less privileged children are have no access to computer labs that are functioning. This remains a headache to some of us who are willing to help. Having our own computer lab can go a long way. We’ll need funding for rent, Computers, air conditioners, internet service, furniture, projectors setting these up. If this can be achieved, the sky is the limit. We are also looking for funding to get our back office together on our website where we can pack training materials including video for volunteers. So you see ….  immediate funding and future funds will go a very long way.

(I sent money with Azimo.com –  Marek Wawro the CTO lives in Kraków, and helps mentor startups for free. The transfer when very smoothly 🙂  I also asked Tina for some pictures that might encourage others and show what could be done with my support but  but was not expected what I received a few days ago

Thank you messages

Ghana Code Club showing printed hand outs

Ghana Code Club showing printed projects

BBC World Service show presented by Bola Mosuro

Thanks on Twitter

I also asked her for a project description/report. This is what Tina sent

REPORT ON GHANA CODE CLUB AS AT JANUARY 2016 by Ernestina Appiah

Ghana Code Club is a digital fun club that is designed to be led by volunteers or ICT teachers in elementary schools all over Ghana, led by trained volunteers or ICT teachers. The club begins after regular classes are over for 2hours or less once in a week.

We initiated such a program because currently, there is little or no digital making activities in elementary schools in Ghana, meanwhile the world is revolving with technology. It is our aim that as children goes through the coding projects and challenges that come along with the project, kids’ interest in technology will grow causing them to participate and patronize other digital making in the future so that we can have a lot of innovators, entrepreneurs and critical thinkers.

The Ghana Code Club began in August last year during the summer vacation school at the Hillview Montessori School in Accra, where I, (the founder) volunteered to teach myself using Scratch programming software. 80 kids between the ages of 8-14 started but after the regular school resumed, the number of kids tripled to over 240 forcing us to split the class into groups. Currently, there are 2 computer labs at the Hillview Montessori School. One has a sitting capacity of 30 and the other has 60. And so each week, we have 3 sessions. I supervise groups 1 and 2 with 2 other volunteers and group 3 is supervised by the ICT teachers who are happy to share in our vision and have been trained to become volunteers of the code club.

On other days, we visit 4 other schools where we are repeating the same procedure as we do at the Hillview School. Unfortunately the other schools do not have more than 40 computers and so we are forced to limit the number of kids who are willing to join the club.

As of January 2016,

  • Hillview Montessori School has 257 members with 5 volunteers including 2 ICT teachers
  • Gospel International has 70 members- 3 volunteers including 1 ICT teacher
  • Liver Rose International has 83 members-3 Volunteers including ICT teacher
  • Rising Sun Montessori school has 60 members- 4 Volunteers including 2 ICT teachers
  • University Primary has 80 members 3 volunteers including 2 ICT teachers 

Curriculum

We have designed projects in Scratch, HTML+CSS and Python languages. We start with the basics of scratch language where kids are thought to explore to obtain the basic principles in programming.

Challenges

Currently out of all the 5 schools we visit, only one school, University Primary, Legon that has necessary infrastructure to make learning  easy in place. We have quite a challenge with power outages in the country until January 2016, when power cuts have slowed down a bit. When power cuts off, we need to close our session and the kids may need to take their step by step project printouts home to continue without our supervision.

There is no internet in 4 out of the 5 schools. But we are fortunate that the languages we have chosen have offline options. But to share the finished project on the internet is a challenge. Sometimes, we the volunteers end up using our own internet modems and airtime to enable the kids share their creativity online

We also have a big challenge when it comes to screening videos that can empower the kids even more. This is because 4 out of the 5 schools do not have projectors. This makes supervision so tedious considering the number of children involved in each session. Anytime we start a new project, we hold our laptop and move about showing the kids how their finished project should look like.

Laptop instead of projector

Laptop instead of projector

 Since there are no projectors to project the instructions, we end up printing project guide to serve all these children which is so expensive. At the moment, Ghana Code Club does not have any source of funding from any organization. We rely on our pockets and some little donations from family and friends to keep on. Parents are not supporting us yet because the school authorities have not agreed to the demand of the code club to seek for donations from the parents. The authorities of one of the schools have asked that we hold on to the close of the month January, 2016 where a PTA meeting will be held and parents informed formally about the Ghana Code Club activities. 3 of the other schools support once in a while with the printing using their own resources

OUR NEEDS

  • Ghana Code Club requests for support to be launched out formally once our back office is ready to serve as training resources for volunteers. We need funds for storing the resources including video tutorials. We intend to invite technology institutions and the minister of education in Ghana to help us outdoor this initiative into all elementary schools in Ghana..
  • We need funds to be supporting our day to day runnings. Transportation, airtime, electricity bills, Project guides and volunteer meet-ups.
  • We need a projector with accessories, Printers and photocopiers and one laptop.
  • We also want to establish our own computer lab where other activities can take place. Some children from the government schools where there are non functional computer labs can attend our sessions on weekends. We can train others who are willing to pay to ease our day to day expenditure.

Of course I want to help, and others to do so as well. I informed contacts in Google and Astia about what they are doing, and  I introduced Tina to Emmanuel Leslie Addae Curator of TEDxAccra –  with whom I made contact having figured out that her story and project might be worthy of a TEDx talk. They have yet to meet. Perhaps more publicity and introductions can help Ghana Code Club find deeper pockets than mine and encourage other people to do similar projects in other schools, towns and countries.

Rasheeda Yehuza’s project ” Tech Needs Girls” is also looking for partnerships. she wrote “Tech Needs Girls would be excited to explore a collaboration! A donation would really help propel our activities as we scale country-wide, and an introduction to the Polish coding community will be fantastic.”   I haven’t found a partner for her yet. but am looking around.

Not everything is making progress. I heard about the mDex smart phone clip for TB and Sickle Cell detection at Afri Gal technologies and tried to connect them to Peek Vision,   which has a high profile project for diagnosing eye disorders at low cost also with a smart phone clip one.  I thought that the UK project would be a good source of advice and mentoring., So far Afri Gal Tech haven’t taken up on this offer. but who know what may happen. Their project is really impressive sounding, and I yet believe I may be able to help

Conclusions

The idea worth spreading in the above experience is that it is worth trying There is nothing to stop anyone reaching out to anyone anywhere. Google and Twitter make it so easy, and finding out what you can do to help.  It’s my belief rather than a proven fact that my approaches in these cases was the right one. I know that it is too early to tell. If the only benefit is that  of my donation, then the gift without any associated PR could be enough.    The test of whether it  was worth going my public with introductions and posts like this will be whether over the next few months, other positive things happen as a result.    This story at the time of writing-  24th January 2016 – is a work in progress.  I’ll update in a few months. The fact that some offers of help have not led to anything is important to note as well. If you don’t try to do anything you won’t fail, but of course  you can’t succeed either.. As J. K. Rowling says in her wonderful Harvard Commencement talk a life lived without risk of risk of failure is hardly worth living at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *