Techwomen takes Technovation Challenge to communities in Harare

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The 40 children from Mbare taking part in the Technovation Challenge

The 40 children from Mbare taking part in the Technovation Challenge (image credit TechWomen)

A couple of days ago Techwomen Zimbabwe kicked off the 2015 edition of the Technovation Challenge in Harare with a different approach from last year’s competition.

The challenge, which is focused on imparting tech skills to school girls from different walks of life was held at the Hypercube hub last year which acted as a central venue for the competition series.

According to Rumbidzai Mlambo, coordinator of the Technovation Challenge and co-founder of Techwomen Zimbabwe, commuting to another part of town presented extra costs for participants who also had added responsibilities at home.

This year the approach has been changed with the Techwomen Zimbabwe visiting different communities and imparting the same tech and entrepreneurship skills to clusters of children from different schools.

In the past couple of days, the Techwomen team has been working with a cluster of participants from Mbare. The children (34 girls and 6 boys) have gone through the process of identifying different problems in their community, grouping together into teams and brainstorming solutions that they will develop apps for.

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They also had their first lesson in computer programming which will be expanded on as they are taught how to create applications that have a relevance to the problems they identified.

In the proceeding weeks, Techwomen will be hosting a series of training sessions in different clusters around the city in addition to monitoring the progress made by the participants. Not all of the work will just be for the school children though. Part of this community outreach will also include the digital literacy training for women in the respective communities.

Today Techwomen conducted one of these digital literacy workshops in Mbare, Harare at Chitsere Primary School. All these efforts are meant to help raise a community awareness of technology. Techwomen’s overall goal is to get a 50% representation of women in all Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professions.



18 Comments

  1. Keith says:

    As much as it good to impart tech knowledge to kids, lets be realistic here – ain’t no grade 7 or below in Zim gonna come up and develop an app to change the lives of those in their community. Focusing on high school students can bring better results. Otherwise its NGO donor show!

    1. TM says:

      Keith, you do not have any solid basis for been so dismissive. I am comfortable with building a culture of innovation from an early age before brains get contaminated with experiences that may be out of context. I have no qualms with extending this work to high school. Innovation culture should be a continuum, in as much as innovation is pervasive, that must not leave out the early ages of cognitive development.

      1. Keith says:

        I don’t have any problem for building a culture of innovation from a tender age – what i meant is there are better returns for the ecosystem if this work is concentrated on high schoolers and above. It makes more sense to put the little resources available to age groups who can immediately put the knowledge to use.

        1. Kundie says:

          If they have already identified primary school as the level they would like to start at and you see another gap in the system why don’t you start your own one and target the secondary schools. Or mobilize funds to target that sector. Both primary and secondary should not be ignored.

  2. Fulia says:

    If these women really genuinely want to promote stem why cant they just train teachers so that our teachers in schools can do these things. Teaching individual kids just mean that these women just want to milk donor money and want these disparities in tech to continue. there is just nothing so special about teaching little kids how to code. there many free places for one to learn how to code online under the econetzero free websites. These are things that just need to be encouraged and not complicate things …….

    1. Anonymous 2 says:

      Training teachers is the government’s responsibility. These are motivated individuals who have found a meaningful way they can best contribute right now (which incidentally makes them the donors!). So even though only 40 kids will get coding exposure today, that’s 40 more than would have had that opportunity yesterday. More power to them!

      1. Fulia says:

        cant we have motivated teachers? do you mean all the teachers are not interested. why not capacitate teachers so that they form coding clubs, forming a coding club at school does not need ministry intervention. So long there is donor funding in these technovation things nothing meaningful is going to come out coz vanhu varikutsvaga mari kwete kubatsira. The problem is that when these projects are formulated there is just no public discussion coz vanhu vanenge vakahwandira mari and this is killing everything. we only read about them when schools kids are paraded writing some bad code taught by equal bad teachers. If there is going to anything to come out of this things its only when we do a honest assessment of ourselves and incorporate really passionate and competent people kwete zvekuti nekuti ndini ndawana donor mari i project yangu ndega

  3. Dollar paTaundi says:

    Donor Funds targeted, it could make more impact if the teachers are trained, the reason dismissing this is just flimsy. Imagine training 40 teachers. The donors want these images of Africa and they pour in ca$h.

  4. Tee says:

    Wow this is great! no Grade 7 or below can build anything that works? in the 2014 challenge 20 fully functional apps were built in the same competition please visit you tube to see the pitch videos and app demo videos which most of the students took and edited by themselves!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FWNZhYslPA&feature=player_detailpage
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd231ljxcg8&feature=player_detailpage
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmTNcl9WlfY&feature=player_detailpage

    Plus more pitch videos and app demo videos. As a volunteer mentor for this programme I am shocked by some of the comments. According to the white paper written by these ladies on the uptake of ICT’s by women and girls some of the barriers to access included cost (including transport money) and additional responsibilities in the home during the holidays turn out of girls is low because they have duties in the home including looking after their siblings. Which is why a community based approach is being taken this year so that the girls do not worry about cost of attending training sessions. This and other programmes run by these women are of international standards being implemented in developed countries and countries such as india and china (they even have younger participants). This curriculum and platform is open source and if you wanted to start training you could do so http://www.mitappinventor.org , http://www.technovationchallenge.org, lego robotics, scratch, Alice, hour of code are also free and open source programmes used to teach programming from as young as 5 years old. last year the dropout rate was over 50% for undergraduate students, 30% for high school students and 0% for primary students! A local tech company selected 5 of the apps to commercialize and offer internships etc for the girls guess what all the apps selected were from primary school students! This is from a total of 20 including undergrad students. These ladies have received international awards and whilst the rest of the world wants to see and get ideas from these young children our own people think they are useless! For as long as we do not support our own we are going nowhere very fast. Please take time to attend some of these training sessions and see if its a show or something real. You could also round up teams and teach as well its free!

    Teachers are a critical success factor but so far they feel that some of these programmes are a burden to their already loaded work schedules and high pupil ratios, they also go through the training but as mentors we have to do most of the work! A separate training programme is available for teachers though! I invite all of you to replicate the work in your communities and see the impact it has on children from increased results at school, extra confidence and many more. Take up an app and help bring it to the market 12 more of the apps need help e.g paying for databases etc otherwise they are working using free databases ,these are not secure hence the apps cannot be launched!

  5. Fulia says:

    I think Tee is somewhat a member of this technovation thing, that writeup is exactly what these ladies use for the donors. And the donors will just fund such kind of insincere nonsense. You cant tell me that 40 is a big number, teach teachers so that teachers can teach the whole school. the president donated computers to most schools and most of them are gathering dust and instead of teaching the teachers you go for the students so that this vicious circle of poor digital skills continue and you guys continue getting the donor thing. I really really praise the president for donating computers coz if he had not done so people could up to now still milking donors under the pretext of donating computers. Right now that the computers are there, no single organisation want to capacitate teachers to at least use or teach kids these computers. Right now a whole organisation in the name of techvakadzi says we want to teach 40 kids. If these ladies are to be truthfully and work out whatever money they solicitated for these 40 kids (I know they will say no was given to them, wiping their greasy lips) that money is enought to capacitate 40 teachers who would share those skills with 40 schools and impart more than 4000 schools kids with digital skills.
    last but not least I would like to edge all zimbabweans to first of all understand some of these tech organisation sprouting all over. First of all ask for concrete success stories these people would have done in their own communities. Charity begins at home. We never heard these women doing these things in their communities and all of a sudden they want to serve the whole of zimbabwe. PLease women give us a break, right now you have issues with your women movement and these issues instead of subsiding their are spiralling out of control. its sad that women have come with something good but have fallen to the same trap man have fell. For these women go back to the drawing board

    1. Kundie says:

      If you see this opportunity of training the teachers why don’t you use that entrepreneurial mind and set up a program that will do what you are saying. It serves no one to come here and bash a noble cause these women were brave enough to even begin in an economy like this. Better yet, approach them and give them ways to improve their model. I am sure they would be more than happy to listen to you.

  6. Tee says:

    As i said i am a mentor one of the co-founders is born and breed in Mbare , there are 40 participants from Mbare but hundreds others from other communities the other co-founder from Bulawayo hence the partnerships with tech hubs there. Usually when one sees a problem it means that there is an opportunity to solve that problem! U would be surprised to note that this initiative was a self funded initiative by the co-founders. Its great that you do see the opportunity to train teachers and you could start that programme as a responsible citizen of Zimbabwe! this initiative has been done through partnerships with local tech hubs in harare and Bulawayo, Government ministries and the private sector. It is good to do your research. no one is being milked at all and if you would care to research further you would find out that these ladies have a sustainable business model that is funding most of the work. If you think Philanthropy is about milking donors then you know very little about how the system works, maybe in ‘the 90’s or in humanitarian issues but not in Science and technology. 40 is too small a number on average classes have between 50-60 students. We look forward to your initiative focusing on teachers we all can not do everything and it is helpful to have people focusing on different stakeholders in the education ecosystem that way we all make great progress!

  7. Shiz says:

    Also just to add onto the many success stories. I will take you back to an article written about the FIRST lego league competition. The Techwomen Zimbabwe participants were the only girls doing the robotics challenge and they also won two of the prizes. after competing with children from private schools who have been doing lego robotics all their lives. Now if all the private schools in Zimbabwe have been participating and non of their female students were doing robotics then what hope do we have for all the other young girls in the country! If your daughter is at a private school they may face descrimination in this sort of way too. In the Robofest Zimbabwe competition the same was true, the techwomen Zimbabwe teams were the only teams with girls in them for the robotics challenge. The techwomen Zimbabwe programmes also include boys just in case you did not know, this is to build positive male masculinities in the Science and Technology space. the technovation challenge happens to be an international competition for girls but it is not the only programme run by the ladies. In the robotics and electronics (Arduino & rasberry pi) programmes coed teams take part and all the school teachers who come with the children are trained as well. If you look at earlier articles on this blog you will see that there is always a teacher/ coach/volunteer training session before a programme is done except for the holiday/ weekend programmes were kids are not coming through their school. the issue of women in technology is a very topical issue even in developed countries and Zimbabwe is facing the same problems. Lets look at how many women are working at our tech companies in technical/engineering positions, how many girls are taking up engineering or computer science at university? this is despite the fact that girls pass maths and physics at A level more than the boys e.g in 2012 but generally perform equally. Then again In University education choices we have more women taking up Medical Sciences over 60% (these girls have 14-15 points). Looking at the admission notices for 2014 University placements one of the major universities had only 16 admitted female students in the engineering departments. More women were in Mathematics even though entry requirements for the Science faculties are the same for mathematics and Computer Sciences. In some Universities programmes did not have a single female accepted student. there is a need to address this issue but at the same not forgetting the boy child because these female techies will still have to deal with men in their workplaces etc

  8. #justsayin! says:

    Why do Zimbos have a PHD (Pull him/her down) sydrome like this? we are very educated and very competitive! seriously why not just say great work lets improve on this or we can help you with this etc OMG for real?

  9. Waker says:

    Yes like someone said recently some people always keep waiting and waiting with no action and when someone does something they are the first to criticize lets use proof and real life examples of how you have done things better instead of attacking someone who is trying, you cant expect someone to think or act like you people focus on their strengths and capabilities lets see what you can do and how it can help with what these ladies are doing, whilst you sit there and say donors are being milked maybe you need to take this into perspective and say what exactly are these donors benefiting from this, they are not stupid and take calculated moves. While you are saying lets not focus on kids etc they are getting to know how the future of African society think and behave and what they want and are busy building future products that they know they will buy etc or something like that, I think Venture Philanthropy especially in the tech space is about impact first then profits later so while you think they are being milked of a few thousands of dollars they will make millions or billions out of that investment. While you wait and criticize

  10. Fulia says:

    There is just nothing there, but a ploy to milk donors fullstop. Self funding, laugh laugh thats what every person who milks donors say. that lady who said is a mentor can he/she give me an email of these ladies, i would like them to send me their financials and if they do so will donate something to them.
    ITs not that we dont want to help grow the zim tech industry but against pretenders. Pretenders are killing tech in Zim. This is the reason why whatever tech like hubs, whatever programs they dont attract corporate sponsorship as its totally pretending.

    1. Wel says:

      You can say that again

  11. jhbm says:

    Good initiative … Any training happening in Bulawayo and when? Please may you also remember children in boarding schools … most activities tend to happen while they are away at school and they miss out on a lot of things

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