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6 months ago · by · Comments Off on Zimbabwe Youth Creates Free Coding Classes to Help Others Get Similar Scholarships

Zimbabwe Youth Creates Free Coding Classes to Help Others Get Similar Scholarships

A young man from Zimbabwe is replicating his experience for talented students in his home country—launching their academic journeys into schools like Northwestern and Stanford. Like many young Zimbabweans, Eric Khumalo didn’t have a lot of options, even for a curious mind like his. He found a breakthrough moment, however, in a U.S.-sponsored school near his home town of Bulawayo.

A fascination with coding grew and because of his background in teaching-so did the desire to share the knowledge. He started Emzini WeCode, an education program that has grown from teaching locals in Zimbabwe classrooms at the American embassy to hosting online classes for more than 1,000 students. “I graduated high school in 2018, and within the government there was a shortage of STEM teachers, so I applied for a year and a half. I taught at three high schools and got accepted into UC Berkeley on a scholarship from the Mastercard Foundation” Khumalo said.

Khumalo said he started out studying chemistry but it was the chance encounter with the fabled “good professor” that launched his computer science journey. “I was just like asking questions, and then he told me just about his journey, about how when he was a kid he learned to code; he would make games, and for me I just admired the wonderful things he could accomplish with just code,” says Khumalo. “I found it interesting—this power to create, and this power to solve problems, or if you have a solution—scaling it is possible with computer science.”

Despite the popularity of his classes, he has kept them free, or as cheap as possible, covering only the costs of buying the data necessary to stream in the teachers from local and U.S. universities. “Usually, like two U.S. dollars a month,” says Khumalo. “The group that I usually target most is people who I know are facing challenges in the community.” His focus is broad in scope, avoiding a strict focus on any particular coding language, and opting instead to inspire students to see computer science and coding as a way to solve problems, in whichever career they focus on.

Khumalo feels a sense of pride that keeps him motivated when he sees the students taking his course moving on to other schools and other careers. “If one of my students can get into Stanford, then ten of my students should get into Stanford,” he said smiling. He wants to expand the opportunities he gave to them to more people, and he’s currently designing a computer science curriculum for high schools.

“The main problem I wanted to tackle was job creation,” explains Khumalo, whose January classes are now open for enrolment online for 1,000 students. “I have a vision that local universities here, have young people skilled with world-class knowledge getting hired to solve some of the problems that we have here.”


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