Bringing technology to a million African kids

Linidiwe Matlali, the founder of Africa Teen Geeks , an organisation that teaches children from disadvantaged communities computer coding.

One of Lindiwe Matlali’s dreams is to produce Africa’s own technology innovators.

This dream prompted her to establish Africa Teen Geeks, an organisation that teaches computer programming to young children who would otherwise never have the opportunity.

The focus of Africa Teen Geeks is children from disadvantaged schools who do not have computers at school or even computer science as a subject.

“In South Africa, specifically, access to computing education is still a class issue. With only 5% of our schools offering IT, mainly in former model C schools, the majority of our schools don’t teach it,” she said.

“We want to expose the children to computer science and inspire a generation of innovators who will not only use technology but also create it.”

But her hopes for Africa Teen Geeks are not only limited to exposing children from disadvantaged communities to computers, but also to give them skills and support to start their own technology companies or be technology innovators.

“I believe that every child deserves an opportunity and exposure. The only thing separating children from Alexandra and Sandton is opportunity and exposure. If we can close the opportunity gap there’s no reason why Africa’s next Elon Musk can’t come from Alex as much as he can come from Sandton. My goal is to close the opportunity gap where access to technology education is concerned,” she said.

Africa Teen Geeks has been operating for three years. Matlali said that in this time the organisation has exposed over 23 000 disadvantaged children to computer science at Unisa labs across the country during the computer science week the organisation hosts every June.

She said because of the lack of internet at township schools, the organisation has to utilise Unisa labs to teach children.

Running the organisation has not been without its challenges. One of the biggest adversities is getting funding to take the children to the labs and also provide them with food.

However, this has not been a deterrent for Matlali who hopes to have an impact on more than one million children across Africa through her organisation.

“I think the only way to ensure that Africa plays a critical and meaningful role in the global digital economy is by raising a generation of children who will not be content to only know how to use technology, but who will create it,” she said.

Matlali, who hails from Belfast in Mpumalanga, holds a BCom in economics and statistics from the University of Cape Town and a certificate in entrepreneurship and innovation from GIBS business school. She is currently studying towards a master’s in technology management at Columbia University in the US.

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