The VVOB Scratc²h 2050 Project, funded by Belgium through the Wehubit programme and implemented by Enabel, aims to equip secondary schools in Kayonza district with the competences needed to initiate and facilitate afterschool coding clubs for secondary school learners. By introducing the learners to Scratch, a free coding tool, the project aims to develop their creative, problem-solving and collaborating skills, helping them to thrive in a digital economy.
In the first coding cycle more than 1800 learners have learnt how to code. Of these learners, 46% are girls. 15-year-old Emerance Umutoni is one of them. Emerance studies in senior 2 at GS Kabarondo and has been a member of a coding club for 3 months.
How Emerance Umutoni joined the coding club
Ms Umutoni became part of the coding club at GS Kabarondo after talking to some of her girlfriends who participated in the Scratch day hackathon. This day is organised at the end of each coding club cycle. The hackathon competition starts at school level, continues at sector level, and finishes at the district level, through a celebration of Scratch Day at the district level. During this Scratch Day, each winner at the sector level has the opportunity to present their Scratch project and the top three Scratch projects will be selected and awarded. ‘When my friends came back from the Scratch day hakathon they told me how nice it was. That was when I was convinced to join the club,’ Emerance said.
Emerance felt insecure when joining the coding club because she thought coding was very difficult and more of a ‘boys-thing’. It turned out that her friends helped her getting started. “Joining the coding club was easier than I thought. My friends helped me to set up.” Also, in the Scratch project, one third of the teachers is female. So is the teacher of Umutoni, Mushimiyimana Didacienne. Ms Didaciene acts like a role model for all girls in the club. “Our teacher shows us that coding is for boys as well as for girls”. Emerance concludes: “Now whenever there are new members – boys or girls - I help them because I love to help. I also persuade other girls to join the coding club and that works”.
Emerance Umutoni’s future plans
For Emerance the biggest advantage of the coding club is that she now has the possibility to use a computer every day. In this way her overall computer skills developed in a good way. Also she realised that Scratch has many uses outside the club. “I learned that Scratch can be used in every topic and in all subjects in our school and how important it is for my future career.”
Emerance is eager to participate in the next Scratch day hackathon. “I want to learn more about Scratch every day and get selected for the hackathon competition so that I can show the game I developed to my fellow coders, and hopefully win a prize,” she said, laughing.
Because of the coding club, Emerance is now considering the possibility of an IT career. Her plan is to study ICT at university and become a “coder for good”. ‘Many of my girlfriends like social media, but there is also a lot of crime out there. “When I am a professional coder I can find these bad guys and make social media a safe space for everyone,” she said.
The story of Emerance is no exception. Girls face still many challenges when it comes to education, digital literacy and developing 21st century skills. But through the Scratch project, girls like Emerance are taking their fellow female friends to the coding clubs, joining forces, and empowering each other. This, together with teachers as role models, is promising for the further female participation in the coding clubs.