Starting a Code Club in a rural school in Ghana

In February of 2018, a new Code Club was set up at Bosomtwe International School in Ghana. Code Club volunteer Clement Cheah tells us how he came to travel from his home in Switzerland to West Africa to help them get started.

In 2009 I learned about a school in the heart of rural Ghana. The school was set up by former professional football player and local Ibrahim Oubda, and lessons were taught outside under a tree, or in a wooden hut.

Bosomtwe International School

Bosomtwe International School in Ghana

Since then, new buildings and classrooms have been built, and the school now has a new name: Bosomtwe International School (BIS). Inspired by their progress and my own experiences, I wanted to give BIS students an opportunity to learn IT and coding skills. Supported by friends, I started a project to equip the school with hardware, including 20 Raspberry Pi computers.

During my first trip to the school, I was warmly welcomed by students and teachers. One student, Ernest, particularly stood out. Ernest was not only passionate about computers, but also about aeroplanes, and he promised that in 10 years, he would fly me somewhere.

I’d never set up a computer room in a rural school, and though I had lots of ideas, there were plenty of things I hadn’t planned for. My allocated room was in a building without electricity, but with help from an electrician and after several trips to town (about an hour away), the IT room was set up with power. Computers were new to the students, and so the ICT teacher’s first goal was to teach them how to type on a keyboard and use a mouse. I travelled back home to Switzerland, happy that we’d made a good start!

Soon after my return, I discovered Code Club at the BETT show and was impressed by both the resources and by how easy it was to start a club. I remembered Ernest, and wondered if he would enjoy coding. I shared the idea of starting a Code Club with the BIS’s ICT teacher, Bismark, and he was very supportive. Therefore, my new goal was to start a Code Club during my next visit in February 2018.

BIS_Code Club 001 (1)

Ernest, the ‘Computer Man’ at BIS

Back at BIS, I introduced Code Club and Scratch programming to Bismark and to Ernest, who by now was known as the ‘Computer Man’ at the school. Both found Scratch very user-friendly and were confident they could use it to continue the BIS Code Club. We put up Code Club posters and gave Code Club stickers to the excited students who came to try Scratch.

I am extremely happy that Ernest and his friends have this opportunity to learn coding. In the future Ernest could become a pilot, a software engineer, or even the next tech entrepreneur — who knows! I do know that BIS students (and teachers) are now learning to code thanks to the support of Code Club and the Raspberry Pi Foundation. I encourage everyone to start a Code Club in their community, or even in communities far away where the lives of children and their communities can be improved through learning a new skill: coding!

Feeling inspired?

There are Code Clubs in more than 140 countries around the world! Start one in your community now by heading to www.codeclubworld.org.

A man and a boy in front of a computer

T.E.D., the Talk Enabled Development project

At Code Club, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn to code. So when we heard about a club that had found a new and unique way to support a blind child’s coding, Katharine Childs, Regional Coordinator for the East Midlands, went along to find out more.

Young students in a computer lab

Introducing Ted

I was welcomed to Farnsfield St Michael’s C of E Primary VA School in Nottinghamshire by teacher Rob Fry and volunteer Steve Barton. Steve is a software developer, and he set up the club earlier this year to run once a week for a group of around 30 Year 3 and 4 students. One of these children is eight-year-old Ted, who is visually impaired. Initially, Rob used a BigTrak to do physical programming with Ted, but Rob and Steve wanted to find a way to help Ted to use Scratch, the programming environment used in many Code Club projects. Steve said:

I was keen to get Ted sat in front of a computer creating his own imaginative projects that he could share with the club, just as the other kids were doing.

Steve started by researching other coding tools for children with visual impairments, but he couldn’t quite find what he was looking for. Undaunted, he decided to write his own system.

EXTERNAL - Farnsfield St Michaels Nov 2017

Steve and Ted

Introducing T.E.D.

Steve explained:

I started tinkering with Scratch to see if I could leverage its excellent sound library along with some of the key code categories to give Ted that real coding experience. [The tool] had to use the keyboard as little as possible — just the arrow keys to navigate and the space bar to select an option. And of course, it had to have audible prompts, so I set to recording my own voice for that. Ted likes Star Wars and Thunderbirds, so I downloaded some sound bites for him to use in his projects.

The result is T.E.D., the Talk Enabled Development project, which I saw in action during my visit. Ted told me that he really likes coding and would miss being able to take part in Code Club with the other children if he didn’t have T.E.D. to use.

You can try the Scratch project for yourself here. To Steve, T.E.D. is very much a work in progress, and he listens carefully to Ted’s feedback about bugs and features. Next on Steve’s list is to improve the way that projects are saved.

Steve and Rob do everything they can to ensure that Ted is included in every aspect of the club. At the end of last term, every child was presented with a Code Club certificate, and Steve got Ted’s translated into Braille.

The Code Club community

We’d like to congratulate Steve on being an outstanding volunteer who has demonstrated a fantastic commitment to the ethos of Code Club being open to everyone. We welcome everyone to share their own stories with us via our social media channels and with their Regional Coordinators.

If you’d like to start a Code Club in your local community, host a club at your premises or school, or volunteer at an existing club, you can find information on this on the Code Club website. Prospective volunteers, interested parents, and educators are welcome to join us at our free regional meetups — find an event near you here. You can also enrol in our free online training course Prepare to run a Code Club, which will help you build your skills and gain the confidence to start your own club.

Run a Code Club at your Library!

Interested in getting a Code Club started in your local library? We asked Julie Gibson, Branch Library Manager for Omagh Library in Northern Ireland, about her experience running a club. Here is what she says:

robot-015Libraries are all about reading and learning, including about the use of technology, and one of the Libraries NI objectives is to help bridge the digital divide. With this in mind, I thought we were a perfect location for offering local children access to what is essentially taking words (code) and creating a story (program), whether an animation or a game.

After some thought and discussion regarding the practicalities, Libraries NI’s first Code Club met in Omagh Library in January 2016 with 10 children registered. Children have busy lives with homework and after-school clubs, so we decided to run sessions alongside school terms on Saturday mornings, which is also a time our computers are not in high demand.

We were lucky to have Una, Code Club’s Regional Coordinator for Northern Ireland, as our volunteer for the first term, and she got everyone, staff and children, motivated to learn to code by setting up a real whack-a-mole game using Makey Makey, play dough and Scratch!  

Faced with their first coding project the children were enthusiastic. Coding mixes logic with creativity, a great foundation for any child: focus on learning the basics, follow the steps, consider the consequences, and let your imagination soar!

Robot - 002I have to say this is one of the quietest children’s clubs I have ever hosted, as they are all so absorbed by the code, except for occasional outburst of joy at creating something new or of despair at the project not working.  When the latter happens it is usually enough to remind the children to check that they have followed the steps in the worksheet – success is in the detail – and there is always another club member to help if someone needs it. Anyone who finishes a project early either moves on to a new project or goes back over the project they have completed and tweaks it to make it their own, choosing new sprites, stages and conversations. At the end of the term each club member receives a certificate as proof of their accomplishment.

My best Code Club moment? This has to be every time a child’s eyes light up when they see what they have achieved – proving that coding is for everyone.

Learn more about the potential of Code Clubs in libraries by watching our short video on Youtube, you can also sign up on our website.