Gov’t Moves to Increase Girl Coders

Photo: JIS Photographer Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson (3rd left); and Founder of Halls of Learning, Marvin Hall, seem pleased with Diamond Brown’s (2nd left) coding work, during a workshop held recently, at the General Accident Insurance Company’s board room in Kingston. At right is workshop participant, Najeeka Rose.

Story Highlights

  • Twenty-five female students, aged 11 to 15 years, are being trained to become coders as part of the Government’s thrust to increase skills in information technology for national development.
  • Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson, tells JIS News that the workshops are a follow-up to a month-long project held over the summer.
  • The workshops are being funded by the Musson Foundation.

Twenty-five female students, aged 11 to 15 years, are being trained to become coders as part of the Government’s thrust to increase skills in information technology for national development, and boost the number of women in the male-dominated field.

Coding is the process of writing specific instructions for a computer to perform a particular task or action. Coding is what makes it possible for us to create computer software, apps and websites.

The girls, who are drawn from 10 schools across the Corporate Area, are participating in a series of workshops, where they are being taught coding techniques.

At the first two workshops held on November 15 and 22, they learnt coding to create ecards and other simple eprojects.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson, tells JIS News that the workshops are a follow-up to a month-long project held over the summer.

“So, these workshops are to keep them interested and to expose them to new techniques in coding and hopefully, over time, they can develop clubs and ultimately to get more young ladies coding,” he says.

The State Minister says the long-term goal is to create a large pool of female coders.

“What we want them to do is become ambassadors for the programme…and hopefully they will become the coders of tomorrow,” he says.

The workshops are being funded by the Musson Foundation and the organisation’s Deputy Chairman, Melanie Subratie, tells JIS News that the foundation was glad to offer its support after it was approached by JAMPRO.

She informs that students from 10 schools are participating in the training, and the plan is to set up coding clubs in schools, where other girls will learn the skill.

“When these girls are in charge of their own coding clubs, we are hoping that these 10… will mushroom into 250 girls coding. So we’re looking forward to competitions, curricula, and for it to last long and be successful in the schools that it rolls out in,” she notes.

“If we can get these girls and they set up coding clubs in their schools, we will sponsor as many as we can, and in five years time, can you imagine the multiplier effect!” she adds.

Mrs. Subratie praised the Government for its focus on technology and innovation.

Coming at a point when the Tablets In School pilot programme is being rolled out, Mrs. Subratie feels the workshops and the thrust toward coding, will definitely put Jamaica in a good place in a few years.

She says that most of the jobs in the next 10 years are going to be technology-driven, and it is important that the country’s youth are equipped to be at the forefront of the local and international job market.

“The Government has really put Jamaica at the forefront of technology in education with this project, with the Tablets in Schools project, and Start-Up Jamaica. Jamaicans are incredibly creative and this can only help the country’s development,” she points out.

Founder of Halls of Learning, which is carrying out the training programme, Marvin Hall, tells JIS News that the workshops are a “good first step” in closing the gap of female coders.

“The level where they can now write a programme or develop an application that does something, that’s the level we want to get them to. Coding is what gives you command over the computer,” he notes.

He notes that coding is a key part of robotics, which he teaches under his ‘Leggo yuh Mind’ programme.

“There is no robotics without coding. In order to bring a robot to life, you have to write a programme. That programme commands the robot, so the two go together,” he points out.

Grade seven student at Dunoon Park Technical High school, Aleeka Sherrington, says she has learnt a lot about coding from the workshops and “cannot wait to learn more.”

“You can produce your own games and create your own movie. We have already formed a club at my school and we are now ready to start going through all the processes,” she says.

Aleeka’s elder sister Nakeisha Rhoden, who says she “begged” the organisers to allow her to participate after accompanying her sister to one of the classes, says “the whole programme is very interesting as it shows you how to develop from scratch, movies, cards and other things. Without this programme an object on the computer can’t move unless you give it a command, it is so precise,” she notes.

Another participant, Diamond Brown, who is a grade seven student at the Merle Grove High School, says the experience is not only fun but provides an opportunity to learn something new and express her creativity.

“It makes you learn how to build your own games and do animation and ecards. When I go back to school, I will teach my friends how to build their own games and do animation. I’ve already started to teach my family, my cousins in 8th and 7th grade and they like it,” she tells JIS News.

The Technology Minister will select its official Christmas card from among the ecards being created by the girls, which it will send out electronically to all its stakeholders. “We will brand it as a ‘Girls who Code’ project,” Mr. Robinson says.

 

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