Shaping Tomorrow through Inclusive Tech Education in South Africa

Treezer Michelle Atieno

In today’s world, computer programs are everywhere, shaping our likes, interactions, communications, and even our dreams. They hold the keys to our future, guiding us in ways beyond our imagination. But who gets to shape this future? That’s where Code Kamoso comes in.

Students during on of the coding classes by Lelapa AI

“Kamoso, meaning ‘tomorrow’ in Setswana, isn’t just a word; it’s a call to action. It beckons everyone to join in crafting the future they want to see,” says Jenalea Rajab, an AI research scientist from South Africa.

“Instead of being passive recipients of technological change, we become active participants. We write our stories, hopes, and dreams into the very fabric of tomorrow through coding.”

Only a small fraction of the world’s population knows how to code, and the gap is widening. But Pelonomi Moiloa and Daniel Kalmer refuse to let this inequality persist. They’re on a mission to democratize coding, especially in South Africa, where the disparity is stark. 

Code Kamoso team from Lelapa AI

“Code Kamoso aims to propel us forward into tomorrow by addressing critical issues like female and African representation in STEM,” Pelonomi Moiloa, one of the Code Kamoso program leads explains. “Our goal is to provide opportunities for youth to empower themselves, particularly in terms of self-employment and entrepreneurship.”

He continues, “Rather than solely focusing on creating the next generation of coders, our aim is to cultivate the next generation of industry professionals. We want individuals to gain a comprehensive understanding of how code influences the world, enabling them to make more informed decisions for themselves and the solutions they develop.”

The Code Komoso, a brain child of by Lalapa AI in South Africa is run by a three member team with help from other organization members. One of the leaders of this project is Pelonomi Moiloa. “My journey into coding wasn’t smooth. A rough encounter with a programming course almost derailed my path in Electrical Engineering. But she persisted, falling in love with code and advocating for fairness in machine learning, youth coding, and empowering tech communities, particularly women,” Pelonomi recounts.

Daniel Kalmer, also a member of the team, started his coding journey in high school IT classes, fueled by a passion for games. Despite taking a different route into professional coding in the financial sector, his love for teaching remains undimmed.

Then there’s Jenalea Rajab, a natural language processing expert who is reshaping natural languages like  Oshiwambo, the most widely spoken African language in Namibia. Through her work, she aims to build a vital resource for language technology development, bridge generational gaps in cultural and language knowledge and provide socio-economic opportunities through language preservation.

“Code Kamoso is not just about teaching code; it’s about inspiring a mindset shift,” Daniel emphasizes. ” We invite special guests to bring industry insights, showing how coding opens doors to diverse career paths.”

According to Jenalea, Code Kamoso events are not typical classroom affairs. It’s a day filled with excitement and learning,” she continues. “Seniors dive into hackathons, tackling real-world problems with innovative solutions. Juniors immerse themselves in Python coding, discovering the thrill of creating something from scratch.”

Jenalea Rajab with the coding students during a hackathon

“But why learn to code?” Rajab asks. “Coding isn’t just about machines; it’s about honing critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration skills. It’s about empowering individuals to navigate the complexities of the digital age with confidence.”

“At Code Kamoso, diversity is celebrated, and inclusivity is the cornerstone. From 7-year-olds to adults, everyone is welcome,” Rajab affirms. “The focus isn’t just on teaching; it’s on equipping individuals to become lifelong learners, driving ethical technological transformation for the social good.”

“So, what’s next for Code Kamoso?” Rajab concludes. “It’s a journey of endless possibilities, where every line of code written paves the way for a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow.”

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