The Ministry of ICT and Innovation has announced plans to initiate coding lessons as part of the new school curriculum that will create a young generation of software engineers in Rwanda.
The program is aimed at preparing Rwandan children for the future workplace with basic coding skills which are now viewed as a bare minimum requirement in the fast changing digital era.
ICT Minister Paula Ingabire says that the decision to scale up coding skills was informed by the level of children’s participation in holiday coding boot camps and to prepare an army of digital elite Rwandans.
“The major plan is to have coding taught as a lesson so that children can start at an early age to pick interest in Science technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, which will enable them to be competitive in the future job market, ” Ingabire said.
She revealed that all schools in Rwanda will be encouraged to form coding clubs as a way of promoting and disseminating coding skills among students.
The Minister was, this Tuesday, speaking at the launch of the second ‘Future Skills coding boot camp- a holiday program aimed at equipping students aged between 13 – 18 years with basic coding skills during their school holidays.
When the trial program was initiated last year only 50 students from Kigali were trained but this year, the program attracted 350 students of which 100 of them were from the Northern Province.
The program uptake has also attracted more sponsorship and coding boot camps have now grown from one (in 2018) to eight boot camps this year, with training locations in schools in Kigali and the Northern Province.
The ministry’s communication office says that the plan is to bring other provinces on board next year 2020 with a target of another 350 in next summer holidays and another 350 at end of 2020 during the Christmas holidays.
In order to expand this program further, Minister Ingabire said that it will need the role of private sector investing in the program.
So far the coding program has attracted corporate sponsorship and contributions from Rwanda Coding Academy, Andela, Irembo Online platform, universities like African Leadership University (ALU), Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA) and other secondary schools among other sponsors.
This move comes as a response to Rwanda low digital literacy levels (10%) despite the heavy investment government has made in availing internet with 7000km of fiber, a 72% internet penetration, access to computers in schools on top of other smart Rwanda policies, like rolling out digital payments systems for government services.
The coding camps are established to try to raise skills that will improve access to internet based solutions and services for Rwandans.
The trainees are selected by the ministry of ICT after presenting successful applications and meeting the age requirements.
Coding trainers say that besides learning how to code, coding in itself improves communication skills – verbal and written, fosters problem solving and creative thinking and some of the future smart solutions to health, education could come from the trainees.
“Children have a high potential of learning and innovation that can be a seedbed for future engineers to provide smart solutions. For example they (students) will learning how to create website, prototypes and applications which are needed to create future solutions,” said Ines Ineza, a trainer and student of computer sciences at AUCA.
One of the trainees, Jean Claude Nshimiye, 15, a student of computer applications at Notre Dame de la Paix, Cyanika said that he joined the coding because it is the future of employment.
“I am still young and cannot wait to acquire more ICT skills because everything that we learn is based on internet and technology. This training is a preparation for my future for example learning how to create web content, can enable me to create online shopping solutions to earn a living,” Nshimiye told KT Press.
The success of children like Nshimiye will add to the already ongoing national coding project for 60 secondary school graduates at Rwanda Coding Academy (RCA).
The project, dubbed ‘born to code’ was established in 2018 to address in more sustainable manner, producing a pool of top-end experts in the field of software engineering in order to address the current shortages of software developers on Rwandan market and the region.
At RCA, students who have outstanding scores in Mathematics, Physics and English undergo a 3 year program which is aimed at reducing importation of ICT experts in the country.