Support a geek

It’s hard to know what to do to create opportunities for our children. However, a new campaign to get kids coding makes it easy to do your part

People often wonder how they, on an individual level, can help build a future for South Africa’s children.

Here’s a way: for the price of two movie tickets, you can pay for a child to attend a Saturday computer science class run by nonprofit organisation Africa Teen Geeks.

Or, if you have slightly deeper pockets, for the cost of an entry-level laptop, you can sponsor that child for a year – and boost his or her chances of excelling in the 21st-century workplace.

This week, Africa Teen Geeks is launching a fundraising campaign, supported by City Press and the SABC Foundation, to provide transport and lunch for disadvantaged schoolchildren who attend its Saturday morning computer science classes around the country.

The Sponsor a Child to Learn Computer Programing campaign is being run through the Thundafund crowdfunding platform.

Africa Teen Geeks has been using four Unisa computer labs for its free weekly classes, which are run by committed volunteers. Next month, this programme will be introduced to an additional 92 training centres nationwide.

The classes teach children as young as five how to do basic computer coding before going on to learn Java programming. Most are from disadvantaged backgrounds and don’t have access to computers at home or at school.

Africa Teen Geeks founder Lindiwe Matlali says: “We will now be able to reach 15 000 children a week. But the training centres are not located in townships, so we have to bring the kids in. For that, we need funding for transport.

“Also, because the classes last for five hours – the entire morning – some of the children ask for lunch. This is a challenge. If we didn’t provide some of them with lunch and transport, they wouldn’t be able to attend.”

She tells of how, for example, a government entity sent the children of its cleaning and security staff to try out the coding classes, but more than a dozen arrived without lunch.

“It’s a problem when some kids are eating and some aren’t, while others just come with bread and margarine. There’s potential for teasing when they aren’t all eating the same thing. Their socioeconomic status is determined just by the lunch they bring,” Matlali says.

The campaign offers individuals and businesses the chance to level the playing field by giving these children a decent meal while ensuring they don’t have to worry about finding taxi fare to get to class every Saturday.

There are three sponsorship options:

. R150 donation: Sponsors a child to attend computer science classes (including transport within a 50km radius and lunch) for a day;

. R750 donation: Sponsors a child to attend computer science week from July 3 to 7 at Unisa computer labs around the country (including transport within a 50km radius and lunch); or

. R5 250 donation: Sponsors a child to attend computer science classes (including transport within a 50km radius and lunch) for a year – 35 Saturdays.

“With only 5% of our schools offering information technology as a subject, 95% of South African kids may never have an opportunity to learn the important digital skills that could help them find employment and break the cycle of disadvantage,” says Matlali.

“Thousands of children will now be able to learn how to code and gain valuable skills. We hope companies and individuals will open their hearts and give these young geeks – especially our girl geeks – a shot at improving their future job prospects.”

She says that charitable donations to the campaign will be eligible for tax deductions because Africa Teen Geeks is a registered nonprofit organisation.

To sponsor a child to attend the Africa Teen Geeks computer science classes or take part in the computer science week through Unisa, visit thundafund.com/project/sponsorachild and pledge your support.

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