Sisters are doing it for themselves


Twenty-five Grade 10 girls from two Stellenbosch schools are spending the July holidays learning how to code web pages. The programme is run by Educate, the Stellenbosch site partner for the Code for Cape Town (Code4CT), an initiative masterminded by Emma Dicks.

The programme is aimed at empowering young women to leverage technology for social innovation, thereby fostering greater diversity in the African technology sector.

Code4CT teaches young girls to write code, and fosters innovation, which prepares them for a 21st Century environment.

“Even if they don’t go on to become coding professionals, they will be well equipped to harness technology, because they will inherently understand it,” site manager Moija van Zyl told Bolander last Thursday during a visit to the Code Week workshop at Makapula High School in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch.

“A graduate of this programme will be able to brief a developer properly, and have complete insight into the development life cycle, a tremendous advantage for a budding entrepreneur who wants to develop a purpose designed app, for example.”

The 25 young girls – 14 from Makapula High School, and 11 from Cloetesville High School across the valley – had to have mathematics as a subject, and had to apply for the programme online, using Google forms, in effect an initial screening exercise.

They also had to answer essay-type questions: What problems exist in your community, how would you go about solving them, and what are your dreams for yourself? The on-line application was followed by a two stage interview process, and all 25 girls were successful in securing positions on the programme.

Hosted at Makupula High School for the week, the girls learned the basics of coding web pages using HTML (hyper text markup language), CSS (cascading style sheets) and Javascript, and although the learning curve was steep, they assimilated the technology rapidly.

When Bolander visited on Thursday, each five-girl team was being scored for a web page they had developed to display a recipe.

The scores out of 25 were within a hairsbreadth of each other, and as they received feedback on their respective projects, they set about making changes with remarkable confidence, given that four days before, they had never written a line of code.

Educate site manager Moija van Zyl, who said this is the first time the Code4CT initiative was run outside Cape Town, explained the balance of the programme: “Next week the girls will join up with 40 other girls from other schools. They will spend a week hosted at Groote Schuur High School in Cape Town, working on solving real world problems, divided into four groups, each tackling a different project dealing health, environmental, or social issues.” In the evenings the girls will have a variety of speakers, and they will participate in physical activities like running, hoola-hoop, yoga and dancing, Ms van Zyl said. “For those who are keen to continue with coding as a career,” Ms van Zyl said, “they can sign up for classes until the end of the year, which entails 13 Saturday sessions, from 8.30am to 2pm.

They will also listen to women-in-tech speakers and during Grade 11, they will do a tech-related job shadow.” Through Cod4CT and Educate, each girl is able to use a dedicated laptop for the coding lesson and projects during the programme.

“The programme provides the girls with the opportunity to see the application and benefits of mathematics, and it provides those who want to with the opportunity to pursue a career in app development, even if they choose to not study further,” said Ms van Zyl.

Fifteen year-old Monique Manuel, a Grade 10 student from Cloetesville High School had this to say about the programme: “Everything these days has to do with technology, so I was really glad to be able to learn something new that I cannot learn at school. It’s been wonderful to be able to learn a completely new skill, and I’m considering making a career out of coding.”

Unathi Tisani, a 16 year-old Grade 10 student from Makupule High School was equally excited about the program. “I became interested because I saw that it was about coding, and I wanted to find out what that was. I’ve leaned a lot of new things, and I realise that this is big for me. I wanted to be in politics, but now I think I want to be involved in coding as a career. It means I’ll be able to develop apps, and also teach other girls to code, like we’ve been taught here.”

BLOB) Code4CT is a donor funded organisation, and it relies on donations of laptops, HDMI monitors and money to roll out coding classes to young girls. Visit to find out more about what code4CT does, and how you can contribute to its programmes.