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.

Five ways to inspire your club members about code!

Whether your Code Club is just launching or has been running for a while, here are five ways for you to get your Code Club members excited about coding

A young girl is sat in a classroom working at laptop. A female volunteer is looking at her laptop screen. Both are smiling!
A young Code Club member showing her code to a volunteer.

1. Make Scratch Cat say hi! 

Just starting out with new Code Club members? Christina from Code Club USA encourages you to begin with the basics:  

“We often forget that the simplest things can inspire folks — start with the basics! Show your Code Club members how to make Scratch Cat say hi, and then have them change what the cat is saying and encourage them to try and make the cat do a dance.”

– Christina Foust, Club Program Manager, Code Club USA

2. Be ready, inspiration is contagious!

Make sure you are the first one to be inspired: join us at a FREE online webinar and make sure you’re #CodeClubReady! Talk to our team from across the world, ask your questions, and find out what support we’ve got for you. 

An illustration with too robots, the Code Club logo and words, we are #CodeClubReady

3. Send your code to space

How cool would it be to have your own code run aboard the International Space Station? Your Code Club members can do just that with the European Astro Pi Challenge!  

The Astro Pi Challenge has launched with two missions.

  • Mission Zero: With the help of a step-by-step guide, your Code Club members write a very simple Python program that will run on the International Space Station and show a message for the astronauts there! This mission is a great introduction to Python for learners who want to move on from Scratch. 
  • Mission Space Lab: participants design and write a program for a real scientific experiment that has the chance to run aboard the International Space Station. This mission has four phases and runs over eight months. 
An illustrated image with the Astro Pi logo, two astronauts and the launch date details.

4. Encourage a show-and-tell 

Hold a show-and-tell session to celebrate you club members’ achievements! You can even invite your club members’ friends and family and teach them about coding by having the club members showcase what they’ve been creating and learning. If your Code Club is registered on our website, download certificates from your dashboard to hand out to your members at the end of the show-and-tell to make it really special. 

“A show-and-tell is a great place for your club members to share what they’ve learned and also talk about anything they found challenging. It leads to great discussions and encourages the other children to ask further questions.”

– Rohima Cooke, Code Club Regional Coordinator, South East 

An older ladies hands working on a laptop, drawing a person on the laptop screen.
A family member taking part in a show-and-tell session

5. Build your own game

Who doesn’t love to play games at home? Inspire your learners to create and code their own games. With our free step-by-step projects for Scratch, Python, and Blender, children can easily learn how to make games. You never know, you may have the next Tim Sweeney, game developer of Fortnite, in your group!

How do you get your Code Club members excited about coding? Share your ideas with us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #MyCodeClub.