Joshua Eyaru, who is from Uganda, is a fellow with Atlas Corps assigned to Creating IT Futures. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from Kampala International University and is interested in non-governmental organizations management. (His undergraduate degree is in information technology.)
In 2014, Eyaru co-founded Youth for Reconciliation and Leadership, a community-based organization promoting peace and digital literacy in rural Serere, Uganda. He also works part-time as a digital skills trainer, and has helped more than 5,000 young people acquire skills as part of the Google Digital Skills for Africa project.
In this blog post, Eyaru writes about visiting the Google Digital Skills for Africa project in New York City.
On April 13, I was privileged to attend a coding session for kids organized by Google at their New York City Learning Center.
The room was full of energy and passion for learning. I saw young kids with some background who came prepared to code; others had no background in coding and wanted to learn from the beginning.
My experience at this workshop validated the fundamental similarities between the coding work being done by kids in New York City and rural Uganda — although minor differences also became apparent throughout.
Meanwhile, it was so inspiring to see parents be part of the coding workshops. They were there watching their kids learn how to code. Most importantly, they were helping the classroom’s instructors by serving as training assistants to their own kids. I saw the role of parents in the learning process have to play. By the end of the workshop, every kid had something to show, thanks to these amazing Google trainers and parents.
You may ask, “Why would he attend a kids’ coding workshop?” After all, I knew very well it was for kids, and I was not a parent or trainer.
My motivation was to observe and validate my grassroots project in Serere, Eastern Uganda, as this is exactly the kind of project I run in Uganda.
I saw first hand that the work I am doing is very important in closing the tech gap in rural schools. I saw that the same platforms being used to train kids in New York City are the same ones I used in Serere, Uganda.
I knew for sure we are on the right track in Serere.
Throughout the session, I began to recognize some major differences between what I saw in New York and Uganda.
In New York City, there were more devices in the class than there were number of kids in the session.
They also were using Chromebooks that were brand new and connected to the fastest internet available during the session.
The New York City kids also had enough snacks to keep them energized throughout their training.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with our kids in rural Uganda.
There, about three to four kids will share a computer, and these computers are old.
Using WindowsXP with no Internet access, Ugandan kids will code for four hours with limited snacks — or even without eating anything — just because they get energy from the excitement of using computers.
Finally, their parents don’t have time and resources to attend these programs so it’s strictly up to learners and trainers to take up the challenge.
Despite these challenges, Ugandan kids are not willing to give up or allow their circumstances to block their desire to learn.
In the end, my rural kids are able to develop motion stories and games — and are ready to make their future in tech a bright one.
Their desires and passions inspire me to do more with them.
You can help Joshua build up his classroom in Uganda and help more kids learn coding by donating to his GoFundMe account.