JOHANNESBURG – Learning the language of coding is key in preparing young people for a digital future. This Youth Month, Vodacom will offer over 500 school-going female learners from across eight provinces the opportunity to learn how to code during the winter school holidays, from 24 June – 05 July 2019. This investment by Vodacom in digital skills training programmes for young women will help to narrow the gender digital divide at an early age in South Africa.
Female participation is falling in a field that is expanding globally and men still dominate the number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates in most countries, these were some of the concerns expressed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recently. According to the UNESCO report “Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in STEM”, only 35% of STEM students in higher education globally are women. For example, only 3% of female students in higher education choose information and communication technologies (ICT) studies
The situation is also dire in South Africa as a few years ago the Engineering Council of South Africa put the total number of women engineers registered with the body to 11%. In the United States, women make up around a quarter of those in STEM occupations. STEM fields also have fewer women on boards than any other sectors. This gender disparity is alarming, especially as STEM careers are often referred to as the jobs of the future, driving innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth and sustainable development
Coding is a way of solving problems, sequential thinking and stimulating, creating and designing. The ‘Code like a Girl’ programme aims to develop coding skills and valuable life skills for girls aged between 14-18 years, and encourages them to consider the uptake of ICT and STEM subjects. It provides influential mentors for the girls to inspire them to be passionate about technology and its possibilities. The programme was implemented in South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, DRC and Lesotho with over 755 young girls trained in 2019.
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer: Corporate Affairs at Vodacom commented:
“In recent years, there has been significant progress in closing the global gender gap in various aspects of society. However, in many countries, including South Africa, the gap is widening in STEM careers. The Code Like A Girl programme is designed to give girls an interest in a sector currently more popular with boys, helping widen their opportunities and increase their future career choices.”
“For Vodacom, teaching girls how to code is the first step towards changing their outlook towards careers in STEM fields. Through this, we hope to inspire young girls to reach for the stars and pursue careers that will take Vodacom and related industries into the next digital era.”
At the end of the week, each girl will know how to develop her own website and present her work to the rest of the coding class.
As part of Vodacom’s Global Youth Ambition, this programme will provide support to the young female participants. For instance, a total of 17 Vodacom Discover graduates will serve as head facilitators and 64 Vodacom Youth Academy Alumni members will support facilitators. Vodacom volunteers will be selected to serve as mentors and assist the female learners in their educational and career growth – part of Vodacom’s volunteering programme.
Furthermore, learners will be exposed to platforms such as Future Jobs Finder to give them information on career opportunities and encourage them to be users and ambassadors for Vodacom’s e-School portal, which was introduced in 2014 to provide free internet access to quality relevant, digital education content for teachers, learners and parents. Vodacom’s e-School platform has over 690 000 registered learners, who visit the portal at least once a week.
“South Africa, along with the rest of the world, is standing on the cusp of a digital revolution that will reshape the way we work, the way we live and the way we relate to each other. It is becoming clear by day that this revolution will have a tremendous impact on many academic disciplines. Therefore it was necessary for us as the country’s leading digital telco to take it upon ourselves and launch this initiative to prepare young females, so they can adapt skills of the future and contribute in taking our economy forward,” concludes Matimba Mbungela, Chief Officer: Human Resources for Vodacom Group.