A pilot coding programme has been launched in Kayonza District, Eastern Province, and is set to be rolled out in all 45 secondary schools of the district.
Named “Supporting Coding among Rwandan Adolescents & Teachers through the Curriculum & Clubs Heading for Rwanda 2050”, or simply “SCRATCH”, the programme will involve the integration of coding in lesson plans and the initiation of after-school coding clubs.
The learners will be introduced to coding principles in the classrooms as STEM and ICT teachers integrate Scratch in the courses, and the coding clubs will provide the opportunity to develop digital skills in an “enjoyable” environment.
This is expected to boost the lower secondary students’ interest in joining sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), including female learners, who are still a minority in the field.
Deborah Tesi, a 15-year-old student at Ecole Secondaire Cyinzovu in Kabarondo Sector, said she is most interested in creating animations, which require coding skills, and this could generate money eventually.
“One can even do it while still at school,” she said.
Faith Tumukunde, who is pursuing Physics, Chemistry, and Biology at New Life Christian Academy in Kayonza town, believes that the programme will not only benefit the students but also the Government, considering how technology is ever-growing.
“You can see that in the future, most businesses will be centered on technology,” she pointed out.
“Students in Rwanda will also be able to compete globally and they will access such better jobs which require IT skills. They will also be able to create their arts, like Facebook art, and that will make them richer,” she said.
Tumukunde wants to be a medical doctor but she has since learned that technology is needed there too, giving an example of eye doctors.
“Therefore, lack of computer skills is not good at all,” she added.
Beatrice Nshizirungu, a mathematics and physics teacher at Cyinzovu Secondary School, is one of 135 teachers who will get training on coding before they train the rest of the teachers in the district.
She said; “There is motivation in there; when learners see games and animations, it increases their love for school. Besides, it is really clear that it boosts creativity which one could use to become self-employed.”
Dr Papias Niyigena, Project Manager of Rwanda Coding Academy, said the programme aims at giving ideas on coding to learners at an early age.
“The computers we use have their languages, it is important that children know it early; and once they start studying it as a specialty, It will be much easier for them to succeed,” he clarified.
Rwanda Coding Academy was created last year and Dr Niyigena says bringing coding from upper secondary to the lower secondary all over the country will be a major achievement that will make it easier and more productive for those who decide to join technology as a career.
Worth 348 million Euros, the Belgium-funded “Scratch” project has been active since July 1 this year and will conclude in 2022, it will be implemented in partnership with Rwanda Education Board (REB) and Belgian non-profit organisation VVOB.
Stefaan Vande Walle, an online learning manager at VVOB, said that if the project is successful after two years of the pilot, it will be extended to other districts.
“It is more about exposing learners to what coding is and the coding principles,” he said.
Every teacher in the project will receive a laptop so that they can facilitate the clubs in the schools, besides, they can also use smartphone technology.
The only challenges Nshizirungu, a teacher foresees is the fact that there are schools in the rural Kayonza that do not have access to electricity, and the fact that the regular curriculum is overloaded for some teachers and inserting the new programme “might not be easy”.
Walle admitted that there will be some challenges in some of the schools, maybe electricity, and lack of devices, “so we hope that together with REB and other partners, we can also continue working on improving infrastructure.”
Emmanuel Bisangwa, Director of Education at Kayonza District, reminded that coding promotes critical thinking, creativity, communication skills, problem-solving, among others.
“So, all those are our expectations from this coding programme. This programme comes to help us implement the priorities of the education sector strategic plan that is set by our government,” he added.
The priorities include strengthening STEM across all levels of education, and enhancing ICT to transform teaching and learning.
Aspiring to become a high-income country by 2050 (Vision 2050), Rwanda aims to shift from an economy heavily dependent on agriculture towards a digital economy.Follow DeDiosNsabimana