Q&A: Local Instructors

The CodeBus Africa workshop concept was adapted and implemented to fit various local needs by a global team of 62 instructors. No matter the students’ starting level, instructors made sure that each and every attendee finished with a creative outcome – their very own song. Altogether 50 African instructors received training in running Sonic Pi coding workshops. We had the pleasure of interviewing three of them about their CodeBus Africa experience: Georgia Rwechungura from Tanzania, Jacky Kimani from Kenya and Leonel Tuto from Mozambique.

Could you please briefly introduce yourselves – who are you and what do you do?

Georgia: My name is Georgia, and I work as a developer and tech trainer. I am a co-founder at Kuza Codes Africa.

Jacky: I’m Jacky and I’m 22. I’m a self-taught web developer, a technology enthusiast and an aspiring hacker. I began my journey into tech a year ago and now teach at Tunapanda Institute in Kibera, Nairobi.

Leonel: I’m Leonel, a 31-year-old communications and multimedia graduate, YouTuber, filmmaker, DJ and digital content creator. I’m self-employed and focus on producing videos and other online marketing content.

Georgia teaching the use of a keyboard in Dar es Salaam © Roope Kiviranta

Quite versatile backgrounds then. Well, the CodeBus has crossed the finish line after an intense 100 days. Do you remember what your feelings were prior to your first workshop? How about afterwards?

Leonel: Things started out a bit funny, as I was only supposed to document the workshops but ended up finding myself taking part in the instructors’ training session. I had plenty of previous programming experience, so I caught right up however. The workshops were amazing – the kids really exceeded my expectations and I’m really proud of them.

Georgia: Programming music was something entirely new to me, so I was excited to learn more about creative coding. The first workshop had me feeling a little nervous, because even though I had experience in teaching coding to beginners, I had never done so within the constraints of a language barrier. Managing to teach the students regardless has been the greatest ‘woohoo’ of my career.

Jacky: Teaching coding through music sounded crazy, yet interesting at the same time. The success of the workshops really showed that technology fits with everything.

So what would you describe as the most memorable moment of your CodeBus Africa experience?

Leonel: Definitely teaching my first coding class to public school students who had zero programming experience. Their commitment to learning was impressive.

Georgia: I second Leonel. Helping kids overcome both computer literacy and language barriers is one of my best memories.

Jacky: The youth producing their own songs and then dancing to them was a moment that stood out for me. It’s also been wonderful to see that some of the children recognize me on the street. Their remembering me means we’ve learned together.

Jacky instructing with Sonic Pi in Kibera © Anssi Grekula

Interesting! You’ve all really helped CodeBus’ mission to get youth and especially girls excited about technology transform from words on paper to something concrete. But why do you think this is an important objective?

Georgia: Youth have a fresh and creative mind and a world of opportunities ahead of them. It’s important that the technology sector is not ruled out. Girls are such a minority in tech, and we need to encourage them to take more science subjects.

Leonel: It’s important that youth get involved in technology and have a chance to master computer skills, because technology is the key to the development and transformation of our country. As for girls in particular, it’s important they have a chance to compete on an equal footing in life.

Jacky: Before I got a computer of my own, I would frequent cyber cafes. More often than not, I would be the only girl there. It is rare to find girls associating themselves with computer science. Providing a safe space and mentorship for girls to learn about technology can break down prejudice they have towards tech and boost their motivation to learn more.

Leonel lecturing at the start of a workshop in Maputo © DeJerson Maçanzo

At the core of CodeBus Africa are the youth, but the initiative has a lot of great lessons in store for everyone. How have you grown during this experience and how will you apply your new learning going forward?

Jacky: I’ve gained new perspective to life. In my community, most people lack access to information found outside social media pages. I’m privileged to have had a chance to learn and advance in technology, so I want to give back by helping especially youth to gain more knowledge and information. There are so many youth who could do more with their lives, but a lack of knowledge of what exists limits their opportunities. I think that Sonic Pi can help more people become problem solvers through a fun and musical approach, regardless of age or level of experience.

Georgia: I’ve grown very concretely. Through dealing with challenging classes, my teaching skills and self-confidence have improved. I now also have experience in a new coding language, Ruby. My friends and I have started our own STEM education initiative, Kuza Codes Africa, which targets orphans and abandoned children. We use Sonic Pi as one of the tools in our curriculum.

Leonel: I’ve discovered the pleasure of making a positive societal impact and I’ve become more informed about and involved within my community. I used my platform on YouTube to showcase this project and spread tech awareness. I hope for more partnership initiatives like CodeBus, so we can have even more positive results.

CodeBus Africa’s commitment to a 50% participation by girls also applied to the team of instructors. Out of the 50 local instructors, 26 persons or 52% were female. We want to thank our local partners for rounding up such an incredible bunch, and our instructors for giving this project their all!