CodeMakers teaches computer programming to Umlazi learners

CodeMakers teaches learners at schools in Umlazi, eThekwini to understand computer programme coding and in the process tell their stories through creating their own animations, games and interactive stories.

codemakers coding computers learners
The isiZulu option on the Scratch website helps Umlazi learners learn more about coding. Non-profit organisation CodeMakers set it up to help youngsters understand the coding programme better. (Image: CodeMakers)

Brand South Africa reporter
More than 700 learners in Umlazi, in eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal, have learned computer programme coding and have produced animations that tell their stories in their own words and their own language. The skills training was undertaking by the non-profit organisation CodeMakers.

The organisation began in 2015 with a pilot of linked courses — coding, cardboard engineering and robotics.

Stories told through programming

Speaking to talk radio 702, CodeMakers founder and executive director Justin Yarrow said the group gave children an opportunity to take apart a piece of technology and build their own. “What we are doing is helping kids in many different ways other than just understanding how coding works.”

Scratch, a free visual programming language, is used. Learners are able to create animations, games and interactive stories.

“Doing Scratch computer coding is very creative and for kids with curiosity, it gets them to approach problems from a point of logic,” Yarrow told Business Day Live.

“It also gets kids to express themselves and letting their stories be told is incredibly important.”

This gave children recognition, he said. Through the project, they had found that many children “don’t feel like they can be creators of technology”. CodeMakers wanted to change this.

Its goals included helping its learners recognise the power of computers, especially since many South African children left school without ever using a computer, Yarrow said.

Currently CodeMakers work with grade 6 to 10 learners of Umkhumbane Secondary School and Bhekaphambili Primary School. “We have worked with or run workshops at the KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts (KZNSA), eThekwini Municipality Area Based Management Unit, Chesterville Extension Library, Meadowlands Secondary and Wiggins Secondary,” said Yarrow.

“In the workshop we did with learners at KZNSA they made stories about what they thought the year 2050 would look like, with talking animals, robots, flying cars, and the extinction of rhinos.”

CodeMakers has three inter-linked programmes that teach, inspire and empower learners to understand and pursue studies and careers in science and technology. The programmes are:

  • Skills through hands-on coding classes
  • Inspire through video interviews of early career professionals
  • Empower through offline internet education resources

Careers in science and technology

Medical microbiology student Bonisile Luthuli is one of the people profiled by CodeMakers through video interviews. One of her tasks is testing various drugs on tuberculosis (TB) bacteria in the search for those that will kill the bacteria.

She was interested in how science kept evolving, Luthuli said. The deaths of relatives from TB had driven her to a career in science, Luthuli said, and she hoped to make a difference by finding a cure for the illness.

She works at KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB and HIV. “I went to a school that didn’t have a library or computers. I had never touched a computer in my life before I came to university and I had never seen a microscope.”

She encourages learners to pursue careers in science and technology. “Go for it, work hard, and focus on your studies,” Luthuli said. “You don’t have to be super smart. You just have to work hard.”

Watch Bonisile Luthuli explains what her work entails:

Watch a biomedical scientist profiled by CodeMakers:

Sources: CodeMakers, Business Day Live, Radio 702 and CodeMakers, YouTube.

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