“Ladies, we are programmers – we shouldn’t be afraid! This is our thing!” said one of the participants of a workshop the Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO (CNRU) organized at the Hilltop Hotel in Kigali in cooperation with Moringa School Rwanda. It was to be part of the celebration of Africa Code Week, a digital skills development initiative introduced by the software corporation SAP in 2015, which seeks to drive sustainable growth in Africa and to provide the young generation with digital literacy and sustainable learning impact. A special focus of the initiative as well as of the workshop was on supporting gender equality in the sector of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
This was not only evident with the number of girls from Moringa school and other female participants that were attending the workshop, but also considering the invited speakers; they included among others Ms. Lydia AGASARO, the Master of Ceremony, Ms. Raissa KAMALIZA, Headmistress of Moringa School Rwanda, and to Sabine UMUHOZA, a WeCode Graduate who presented her project of teaching young Rwandans coding skills early on.
Mr Albert MUTESA giving his opening speech
The opening speech was given by Mr. Albert MUTESA, the Secretary-General of the Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO, who highlighted the importance of a workshop like this in our modern world: “By giving young people ICT skills, you give them something they will benefit from all of their professional life, you give them the power to decide their own destinies and contribute well to their society.”
Mr. Léon MWUMVANEZA, the Instructional Technology Specialist of the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC), expressed the same sentiment and encouraged the young students in the audience to take action and use the skills the learnt wisely: “Ideas are just ideas until they are being understood by others. You have to conceptualize them!”
Participants listening attentively to the presentations
Explaining the School Data Management System, a system he developed himself for the Ministry of Education, Mr. Léon MWUMVANEZA showed how ICT can transform the education system. To concerns about the security of the system some participants expressed, he responded laughingly: “It’s safe. Please! Please hack us!”
Mr Léon MWUMVANEZA presenting his project for MINEDUC
Ms. Raissa KAMALIZA, Headmistress of the Moringa School Rwanda, responded immediately: “Be careful because these girls actually could. They have the skills to do so!” Presenting the program of her school, she also invited two groups of WeCode graduates to the floor who presented a live coding exercise and an app they developed beforehand. “I might be a bit biased, but I think this is the best website I have ever seen,” Raissa KAMALIZA concluded after one of the presentations.
Bey FAITH and Nuriat MWANGANZA present live coding and explain their work
“I had questions and ideas,” Sabine UMUHOZA began her presentation. “I knew I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know-how. Moringa school – they taught me the answers.” She described her way from a young student to a business owner and explained her project of how to teach young Rwandans coding skills early on. The students expressed deep appreciation for her speech and her successful project: “You are such an inspiration to us! It is great to see that hard work pays off!”
Especially the female participants were highly encouraged and inspired to expand their ICT skills
Additionally to the celebration of Africa Code Week by encouraging Rwanda’s youth to develop and expand their coding skills, another objective of the workshop was to elect members for a Rwandan National Committee in the framework of the Information for All Programme (IFAP). The international UNESCO-programme seeks to reduce global information inequality and to create a just and free information society. It is to create an international platform, dedicated to the exchange between stakeholders in the information industry and for the establishment of guidelines regarding possible actions in the area of information and knowledge accessibility.
For this purpose, all stakeholders present could apply for a spot on the five-person-strong committee. Following a presentation by Mr. Dominique MVUNABANDI, Director of Science and Technology at CNRU, on the IFAP Programme, a secret ballot was convened by the members of the CNRU, who could not be part of the committee themselves.
The newly elected National IFAP Committee
Rwanda’s newly elected, first National Committee for the Information for All Programme are:
• Chair: Raissa KAMALIZA, Head of the Moringa School Rwanda
• Co-Chair: Bey FAITH, Student of the Moringa School Rwanda
• Secretary: Angelique
• The representative of ICT in Social Context: Thomas TAMBARA
• The representative of ICT in Education: Nuriat MWANGANZA
The closing remarks were given by Ms. Yvette UWINEZA, the WeCode Program Manager. She complimented the successful workshop and highlighted the importance of an event like this in order to reassure young girls of their abilities and possibilities to enter the ICT sector: “This is encouraging for us, for everyone and especially for the young women who are here today, waiting to enter the industry. Women, girls – they can do it! You are all proof of it!”.
Group photo of the participants