With youth unemployment at an all-time high and an education system struggling to keep up with the pace of technological disruption, South Africa’s youth face a difficult future. But for Portia Mlangeni, Donor Relations Head at Code For Change, coding is the skills to possess if South African youth are to future-proof their careers.

Code for Change: Bringing coding to the classroom since 2014. Learners from Blue Eagle Secondary learning about code.

“South Africa still struggles with the legacy issues related to uneven distribution of equal education opportunities for its youth. However, the world is moving forward at a rapid pace of technological advancement, and many of the jobs of the future will require at least a basic understanding of computer science and coding. It is critical that we tackle the problem of digital skills development through broad-ranging initiatives such as Africa Code Week as well as more community-focused initiatives such as ours.”

Code For Change is building an ecosystem of coding skills and digital entrepreneurs in secondary schools to help build the new South African economy. It is launching CodeJIKA, a program introducing and teaching the basics of computer programming to high school students in a fun and engaging way. “It is our mandate to support the movement to bring coding to every secondary school in South Africa through advocacy and implementation. CodeJIKA will facilitate the training of coding in secondary schools across the country, with the aim of reaching 100 skills in the next year.”

Mlangeni says students who complete the CodeJIKA program will be able to create interactive websites, apps, and games. “We have built the program on three key pillars, namely: In-school training, an online learning platform, and a media and awareness drive to encourage uptake. This also aligns with our REV program, which takes unemployed youth through intense coding skills training. Youth who have completed REV will be deployed to implement CodeJIKA in their communities, enabling participants to not only learn the skills but to gain in-service work experience while supporting their own communities.”

CodeJIKA received welcome support recently it was awarded a Google Grant as part of Google’s annual partnership with Africa Code Week. Mlangeni says if the initiative is to achieve its goal of bringing coding to 100 secondary schools in the next year, it will need the support of partners such as Google and SAP. “The Google Grant will allow us to create an engaging and interactive marketing and public awareness campaign, in new areas, to drive uptake of CodeJIKA. Our involvement in this year’s Africa Code Week has also provided a platform for Code For Change to target new schools as part of the build-up to the broader outreach to South African secondary schools.”

Google Head of Computer Science Education Programs: UK & Africa, Obum Ekeke, says the company’s commitment to prepare 10 million people in Africa for jobs of the future is well-supported by pan-African initiatives such as Africa Code Week and in-country initiatives such as Code For Change. “We are funding 60 community organisations to hold training workshops as part of Africa Code Week this year and to bring computer skills training to African classrooms. We are also a primary partner to SAP for its Africa Code Week initiative, which this year aims to train half a million African youth in basic programming skills.”

For Claire Gillissen-Duval, Director of EMEA Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP and Global Project Lead for Africa Code Week, initiatives such as Code For Change is essential not only for the on-going success of Africa Code Week, but to the development of an African digital workforce as a whole. “Partnership lies at the core of Africa Code Week’s success, and is the only way we will reach our goals of empowering 200 000 teachers and positively impact the lives of five million young Africans over the next ten years. We look forward to building on this year’s success, and wish Portia and her team all the best as they continue the critical job of inspiring South African youth over the coming year.”

Africa Code Week 2017 took place from 18-25 October across 35 African countries. The results of this year’s initiative will be released later in November. For more information about Africa Code Week please visit http://africacodeweek.org/. For information about SAP Africa, visit the SAP News Center. Or follow SAP and Africa Code Week on Twitter at@sapnews and @africacodeweek

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