Teenagers show off coding skills

The winning team consisted of Neo Radebe, Abraham Tsiri and Layla Khumalo.

“I was very impressed with all the learners participating in the event, they did very well,” said Lindiwe Matlali.

She is the founder of Africa Teen Geeks, a Non-governmental Organisation that teaches children how to use software coding successfully. “We have children from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as those who do not have access to this training at their school. They attend class every Saturday from 8.30am to 1.30pm at Unisa’s Florida campus,”she said.

The training is open to anyone, and they have children from as young as five attending the classes where they are taught the basics of software coding. “We are partnered with Oracle Academy which enables us to offer the learners that are 16 and older the opportunity to obtain their Java certification. We use these classes to prepare them for the Java exams, which are internationally recognised,” she said.

Three of the learners – Neo Radebe (13), Layla Khumalo (13) and Abraham Tsiri (17) – were chosen as the winning team during the recent #Hack4Justice event, a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Education For Justice event.

The event was held over two days at the Unisa Florida campus, and participants had to battle it out at the keyboard and develop educational games focused on justice and rule of law issues.

All three of them were in agreement that they were excited – but also nervous – about participating in the competition. “We did not have any time before the event to work on ideas, we had to come up with an idea, and the completed app during the two days. It was a bit stressful. But we were happy to have won,” Layla said with a big smile.

Lindiwe Matlali, the founder of Africa Teen Geeks. Photos: Adéle Bloem

The group developed a mobile app called Justice Quiz, where users had to choose answers on either abuse or corruption, scoring points for each correct response.

Layla, Neo and Abraham said that, because of their coding knowledge, they believe they can make a difference and teach others how to do it. “Knowing a lot of people might use one of my apps someday, will make me feel that I have achieved success,” said Layla.

Lindiwe added that, besides the Florida campus at Unisa, they have one in Durban and another in Sunnyside, and every Saturday they teach approximately 215 children between them. “We also have a partnership with the SABC Foundation and work closely with Child Welfare South Africa in Roodepoort, but we offer classes to everyone for free. I do not want to change anything in that regard, as I see them all as equals. As soon as you start separating them into different categories, you create issues. When they are in the class, you cannot tell the difference and they work together beautifully,” she said.

She was very excited to talk about the upcoming Festival of Code that will be taking place at Unisa’s Florida Campus from 2 to 6 October. “We choose the 100 best-performing learners from all of our campuses to participate in this festival. During this event, they will be introduced to entrepreneurship as well as how to compile business plans. We will also have 15 learners from Mpumalanga’s after-school programme joining us during the festival,” she said.

For more information on Africa Teen Geeks, visit their website at www.africateengeeks.co.za.

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  AUTHOR
Adéle Bloem
Journalist

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