Code Club in Kenya

Last year Code Club’s International Programme Manager, James Aslett, visited Kenya to attend the first-ever Scratch Africa conference in Nairobi, and had the opportunity to see a Kenyan Code Club in action. In this blog, James shares with us what he learned about Code Club in Africa.

Scratch Africa

In October 2019 I hopped on a plane to Kenya to attend the first-ever Scratch Africa conference, hosted at Brookhouse School in Nairobi.

The conference was attended by educators from across Africa and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn about the way schools and teachers are engaging young people in digital education across the continent. I also took the opportunity to visit a local Kenyan Code Club to see it in action. 

The site of the Kabuku Primary School Code Club.

Code Club in action 

Kabuku Primary School is a small government school about two hours north of Nairobi. Classrooms are crowded and the school’s Code Club is run out of a stone hut in the grounds once a week for two hours. 

I met Lena, the Code Club leader and an employee of Kids Comp Camp — our newest Growth Leader in Kenya and an organisation focussing on improving access to digital education across rural Kenya. 

Kids Comp Camp approached Kabuku Primary School about starting a Code Club when they learned that children in the region had no opportunities to learn with computers at school. The head teacher and local community were hesitant at first, and found it hard to see the links between learning computing and practical skills that would help children into employment. It took six months of community meetings and presentations for the school to allow the club to be set up and another three months to gather together the hardware needed for the club to run. Using 15 Raspberry Pi model 2 computers donated by Kids Comp Camp and connected to monitors with chicken wire, the school’s computer lab was born! 

Today, the club is thriving!

Starting with the basics 

All the children who attend the club come from low-income backgrounds and don’t have access to computers at home. Before getting started, the children needed to learn how to use a computer: typing, scrolling, clicking, downloading files, and connecting to the internet. 

Young coders hard at work.

Now that the students have mastered the basics, they are diving head first into Code Club projects. At the start of each session the children connect their Raspberry Pis to a phone internet hotspot and download the PDF of the project they will work on. Lena starts the session on why coding is important and the children list the different ways that sequences or loops are used in their everyday lives — for example in coffee machines, train stations, or in TVs. 

When I visited, the children were working in pairs to take it in turns to write code and test each other’s projects. It was amazing to see children who hadn’t ever used a computer six months ago now confidently talking me through their ideas and decisions with code. This is what Code Club is all about! 

What I learned

When I was leaving I saw a box of brand new Samsung tablets stacked in the corner of the room. Lena told me they had been there for 18 months, a leftover part of a government initiative to give every child a computer. Apparently, it’s a common sight across Kenyan schools. 

My takeaway from my trip was that hardware alone is not enough. We need passionate and knowledgeable people advocating for the relevance of computing at a local level. There is also a need for engaging resources that excite young people and help them make the most of their hardware, and flexible non-formal models of learning.

That being said, Code Clubs like that at Kabuku Primary School are a great start to introducing digital making to the next generation!

Get involved

If you’re in the UK, USA, or the Republic of Ireland, head to codeclub.org to find out how you get involved with Code Club in your community. If you’re based in the rest of the world, visit codeclubworld.org to learn more.

Code Clubs share their highlights from 2019!

With 2019 coming to a close, we asked Star Clubs in the UK and clubs around the world to share their highlights from the past year.

Young boy working at a computer with Zoe from Code Club smiling looking over his shoulder at the screen he is working on.
Zoe from Code Club visiting a club in London

From robots to outer space! 

From having code run in space with Astro Pi, to showcasing great ideas at Coolest Projects, to creating a robot named Meriden, 2019 has proved to be an awesome year! We asked Lucia Manzitti, the Head of Code Club UK and Ireland, to share her highlight of 2019: 

For me, it was visiting the fantastic Burnside Primary School in Cramlington, where Shona and Joanne have been running the Code Club for 2.5 years. It was wonderful to see the children’s eyes sparkle when they showed me their digital creations! 

As the year comes to an end, I would like to thank all of the educators and volunteers, who do an amazing job inspiring the next generation of coders and digital makers. 

To celebrate another fantastic year, we asked educators and volunteers to share a story from their Code Club. Read on to find out their highlights of 2019! 

Coding can take you anywhere (even space)!

“The enthusiasm of our young coders and energy from our growing volunteer team saw Longlevens Code Club shoot for the stars. Aisha (8) and Ruban (10) launched a joint entry into the Astro Pi: Mission Zero challenge and saw their code run in space! 

The local radio station thought it was mission impossible, but an interview with the young coders proved that coders can! It was great publicity for the club, and we saw our club numbers increase. Go Longlevens Code Club, we are so proud of you!” Longlevens Code Club, UK

Celebrating successes is important!

“A highlight would be the celebration event to mark our Code Club being awarded Star Club status.

It was an awesome way for our hard work to be recognised; it shows how well we have built a community through Code Club, not just with the kids who attend and create and have fun, but also with their parents and guardians. It’s great to see groups of adults and children working together to experiment and tinker, and they all have that sense of belonging. The celebration is probably my favourite moment of my Code Club volunteering experience so far.” Leeds Library Code Club, UK

Image of a screen with a HTML project called the website of Jimmy
The website of Jimmy! A great project from a club member at Leeds Library Code Club.

There are lots of people who love to code!

“We joined as a Growth Leader 12 months ago and have established more than 50 Code Clubs in public schools across Malaysia. 

In November, we ran a Coolest Projects event in Penang to give the children an opportunity to showcase their great ideas. Over 110 children from across Malaysia showcased 54 projects. They talked to the judges and the public about their work. One even borrowed a fridge from their hotel to complete their project after the airline didn’t let them fly with it!” Penang Science Cluster, Growth Leader for Malaysia

It’s fun learning new skills! 

“Our Code Club members have enjoyed being creative with the sound feature in Scratch. One member used the sounds section to copy and paste different sound clips together. She made a sound collage and then wanted to play it to the volunteers. We were so pleased, we gave her a certificate for creativity!” Jubilee Crescent Library Code Club, UK

“This term, we were determined to try robots using the skills we had learned from Code Club projects. We have started to create our own robot, ‘Meriden Robot’! The students have been learning to program with Python and micro:bit with support from volunteers Jon and John. So far, the children have been working on stop/start, speed variation, circling, forward, and reverse.” Meriden Code Club, UK

A photograph of the Meriden robot being held in a gentleman's hand
Meet Meriden the robot!

Creating inspiring learning environments! 

“From being involved in the community since we launched our Code Club, we have learned so much from the kids, and from being leaders. We want to continue learning, and to keep offering kids a free, fun learning environment where they can feel like they can become anything they want.” Coding Doctors Kids Club, Miami, Florida

Two female Code Club leaders smiling  in blue T-shirts.
Leaders from the Coding Doctors Kids Club

“Our Code Club has been running for three years. Children come with their own ideas, and sometimes, projects that they have already started! Our volunteers help and support them in taking those ideas further, showing them how to fix bugs, solve problems, or explore other opportunities.” Cullompton Library Code Club, UK

Hear from Code Club members! 

We asked the children at Woodland Grange Code Club, UK, what their highlights of this term have been. Some talked about enjoying the sessions:

“I like making the projects. They take a long time and are quite tricky, but in the end, you can play the games and see what you’ve achieved.”

“I have fun and have learnt a lot.”

Some talked about what they have learnt:

“I like creating variables, which I can use in my own projects.”

“Code Club has helped me to understand Scratch.” 

And some talked about projects that they have enjoyed:

“I like Rock band because it’s musical.”

A gif of the Rock band animation - featuring a female singer on a stage wearing a pink dress.
Has your club had fun with Rock band?

What has your Code Club’s highlight been this year? Share it with us on Twitter at Code Club UK or Code Club World and use the hashtag #MyCodeClub.