The EdTech Monday, July Episode returned on airwaves with education partners showing that there is an increasing appetite for coding skills among young Rwandans, a move which will enable the need to bridge the shortage of high-caliber software developers on the Rwandan market.
The episode held on July 25, 2022, focusing on the development of coding skills in the education system of Rwanda, was hosted by KT radio (96.7FM) and streamed live on the KigaliToday YouTube channel giving an opportunity for listeners and followers to interact on the current progress.
Listeners were interested in knowing what coding is if the coding sessions are open to all – concerns that the invited guest answered during the show.
Currently, there is one official coding school in the country- Rwanda Coding Academy (RCA) which opened its doors in 2019 to its first intake of 60 students at the campus located in Nyabihu district, Western Rwanda.
The academy admits the best students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects from ‘O’ Level National Examinations countrywide and specializes in the fields of software programming, embedded systems, software engineering, and cyber security.
RCA officials revealed that they already have three intakes and the first batch is ready for graduation this year as the appetite for increasing more numbers of students and schools is underway.
“The first group of graduates is currently preparing for their final third-year exams but we didn’t see many cases of students losing appetite for coding except one who went abroad to pursue other studies,” said Gabriel Baziramwabo, a Coding Instructor RCA.
Baziramwabo said that skills gained at RCA enable most of the students to start earning side money (as freelance coders) and this is a sign that the program will attract many but also create incomes for graduates.
For instance, Baziramwabo revealed that one of his students was able to skip classes (with permission) to do a freelance job and this has earned the student at least Rwf4million per month.
“This child was smart and we were able to proceed with studies, but the point here is this appetite of coding starts from watching movies but ends up in skills which can earn students a living,” Baziramwabo said.
Besides the only coding school in Rwanda, Dr. Christine Niyizamwiyitira, Head of the Department of ICT in Rwanda Basic Education Board says that there has been progress registered in integrating coding lessons and equipment in primary and secondary schools to reach the 88.3% target by 2024.
For instance, 57% of primary and 47% of secondary schools have computers and facilities on top of the current school curriculum for primary and secondary schools have basic programming language –scratch (lesson sessions) on coding-like studies for early starters.
This is accompanied by annual competitions where the best students are selected at the schools, sector, district, and national levels for the final three awards in each category of coding tests.
“These competitions have resulted in motivating pupils and students of which some have managed to implement their coding skills to create products needed to solve current challenges,” Niyizamwiyitira said.
For instance, Niyizamwiyitira said that in an effort to slow transmission rates of COVID-19, one of the students was able to code animated cartoons to educate other children on preventive measures using images.
To ensure that teachers also come up to speed, REB said that they are focusing on recruiting teachers with computer skills so as to use them to introduce children to basic computer lessons (SET).
Coding experts said that the appetite for coding is growing rapidly among students and this is visible among applicants wanting to join the academy.
Shadrach Munyeshyaka, CEO and Founder of Nyereka Tech said that their focus is to promote coding, which can be learned by anyone and so far the appetite has been visibly bigger among the young Rwandans where they conduct specialized training for communities and students in schools.
Rwandan coding students have also been exposed to the African Code Challenge- an initiative that aims to increase digital literacy in Africa where the program trains children in computer programming at the country and continent levels.
Such a program has exposed to coding students like Kessia Kundwa Ineza from ESCAF Primary School who managed to code a project dubbed “Malnutrition Game.”
The game was developed using scratch programs and it helps and teaches players to eat healthy food.
Another student is Stanley Magede Takunda from Discovery International School who coded the “Fighting global warming game project” – a game that encourages players to plant trees and save the Sahara desert.