First week: Done

We’ve just finished week 1 of our Summer program here in Ghana, so it’s time to take stock and reflect on what we’ve achieved.

Numbers

Firstly, this program is much bigger than last year. Student numbers fluctuated in the first half of the week for a number of reasons: a public holiday on the Monday that we valiantly taught through; another Summer Camp that delayed the start of Global Code for some students, and a couple of no-shows who saw their friends having fun and came along on the Tuesday or Wednesday.

We aimed to accept 33 students for each site with a capacity of 30, to account for no-shows. In total this year we’ve got 75 students across three sites, with 13 women. I’m really pleased with this result and I think it reflects our determination to increase the visibility of Global Code in Ghana and particularly amongst female developers.

Juliet finds her feet in the Linux terminal in Koforidua

Last year we taught 18 students in total, two of whom were women. At the end of the program I declared a policy goal of 50% women in our program and took the following steps to met that goal:

  • Made it clear that the program ran until 4pm every day. It’s important to give clear working hours because quite often young women in Ghana have responsibilities at home.
  • Asked our host universities to provide free accommodation to girls. We’ve been very clear about our commitment and we’re grateful to the faculties at the University of Cape Coast, the University of Ghana, and Koforidua Technical University for helping meet this aim.

Of course there’s more that we can do to reach our target of 50% women. Here are some thoughts:

  • In one of our host universities there are only 8 women in the whole faculty, and 6 of them are on our program. We accepted all eight but two are committed to another program.
  • This year we opened applications in late March, which is too late. For the 2019 program we’re planning to open applications later this year, in November 2018 before the Christmas holidays.
  • This is our second year at Koforidua, the site which had the highest number of applications (65). We’ve got greater credibility there because the students and staff know our program and the great results we generate. We’re hoping to ‘bed in’ at UCC and UG in a similar manner, and receive more applications of greater quality next year.

Curriculum

In our 2017 program I taught on my own, and what gave me the greatest reward was building a curriculum on the fly, accounting for the knowledge, understanding and aptitude of the class that came on day 1. As a technologist and professional instructor it’s incredible to be able to balance the needs of a class with just the right amount of ‘stretch’, to push people beyond what they think they can achieve.

Alex leads a Raspbian installfest at UG Legon

As we grew to three sites and I asked people to volunteer and come to Ghana to teach, I wanted to give those people the same feeling, and so whilst we’ve maintained a common thread (hardware basics, the Linux terminal, python, git), we’ve been careful not to define the order or depth in which those elements are taught: setting out a formal curriculum beforehand, particularly across three very different university groups, would be too brittle.

However, we have to be accountable – to our students, sponsors, donors and indeed to ourselves. Over the next year we’ll work to formalise our approach to teaching. I aim to adopt an “unconference” style, which allows for the instructor and the students to define their own curriculum, whilst maintaining some shared elements. Our desired output is incredible Software Engineers and I think the best way to do that is to support the volunteers that join our program with teaching materials and hardware, then trust them to deliver on our aims.

Week 2

We’ve started working with a local graphic designer on a contract basis to work on design elements for our program and our brand. It’s important we work with local staff, so our chief designer Anna has taken Jemimah on board and we’re looking forward to great things. I’m excited that we’re able to show our commitment to employing talented Ghanaians!

Our hardware supplier, Isaac, is just getting back from four days in Nigeria. We sponsored his trip to the Tony Elumelu Foundation event in Lagos, where he’s been conferencing and workshopping and networking. He’s hoping to expand his operations into Nigeria and we’re thrilled to be able to help.

Today we say thanks and goodbye to Massimo, one of our volunteers from Morgan Stanley, who’s been working hard at KTU – thanks Massimo!

Massimo finishes day #1 with a recap of the Linux terminal

…and we welcome Gjeta, Damask and James, so we only have to make one airport trip. Gjeta and Damask are taking a week’s holiday in Ghana with Stephen and Alex, who have been here working at UCC and UG. Our Summer program is becoming a cats-cradle of logistics and I’m grateful to Ibrahim for helping me keep track of things on the ground.

James is one of our charity trustees, and we’ve got a stack of meetings lined up to raise awareness of our operations, and to drum up support so we can grow.

In class, we’ll be using what we learned in week 1 and building on that to create some distributed systems with MQTT and hosting platforms like Heroku. We’ll be using the GPIO pins on our Raspberry Pis to introduce simple electronics, allowing us to build IoT systems including sensors and actuators. And towards the end of the week we’ll introduce our plan for week 3: projects.

Watch this space!

Sam

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