Africa, Tech and Girls: Lindiwe Mashinini, Co-Founder Africa Teen Geeks

Africa, Tech and Girls: Lindiwe Mashinini, Co-Founder Africa Teen Geeks

This week, we will be profiling the extraordinary woman behind Africa Teen Geeks. Recently named Innov8tiv’s Top 50 Visionary Women in #Tech To Watch in 2017. Lindiwe Mashini is a trail blazer when it comes to the tech space.

I actually have a business degree. I have a Bcom Economics and Stats from UCT. I got into tech through the need to expose disadvantaged youth specifically township kids to computer science. The fact that only 5% of schools teach IT and also only from grade 10 AND in mainly model C schools lead to me starting Africa Teen Geeks.

2. Now, Africa Teen Geeks, tell us more about it and how it started?

We applied for the Google Rize grant and won $35,000 to start Africa Teen Geeks. This enabled us to start Computer Science Week and our school programme where we train teachers to enable them to introduce coding in their schools.

3.Do you find that it is more difficult to encourage young girls to explore the world of tech?

We have more young girls in our programme than boys. I think the kids are not the problem but their parents are. We need to change the way we as parents tell to our little girls about tech, especially that coding is hard, its for boys and only boys can be geeks. The little girls don’t need convincing once they start, they don’t only enjoy it but they commit. For example fewer girls miss the classes, attendance among the girls is the highest.

4.What are some of the challenges or stereotypes you have to debunk while running the initiative?

The first myth is that tech is for the brightest, smartest and that its hard. Also that its only for those who want to be software engineers. All professions require some level of technology; from nurses to police man. The fear of technology can only be a thing of the past if we raise children who don’t see technology as the enemy. So far our kids are doing great.

5.What does the Africa Teen Geeks look like in 20, 60 or even 100 years?

For us in 20 years we would like to be more of an Accelerator/ Incubator supporting businesses and ideas from our teen geeks instead of trying to expose them to tech. Our mission is to ensure that every school in this country from grade 1 teaches computer science within the next 5 years. That is what we have been working hard to remove the “computer” from computing. With very few schools having computer labs or internet connection we worked hard to create a programme where we teach Python through knitting removing the biggest hindrance most kids have to learning how to code.
If you are just as passionate about getting girls into tech and want to get involved. Visit their website: http://www.africateengeeks.co.za/

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