A young woman and a Computer Scientist, ‘Maneo Mapharisa, has much to celebrate. Since her time at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), she has created the Girls Coding Academy, won M100, 000 in a BEDCO BPC Competition, joined the top 50 Digital Champions in Africa, became an ambassador of Africa Code Week and WomEng in Lesotho, was part of the UN Women delegation in Rwanda and she has taken her coding teams of girls to Ghana and as far as Dubai!
If you are a girl with ambitions in Technology, join the Girl’s Coding Academy here:
https://docs.google.com/…/11o5jGAR1_BAqF…/edit or WhatsApp her team here +266 53 041 501/ +266 63 122 074.
Her Academy offers technology training to 80 % girls and 20% boys from the age of 5 to the age of 23, “we teach them in two groups. The first group is from ages 5-16 and the second group is from ages 17-23.” In the first group, girls are introduced to Coding (Scratch) and Robotics where they are trained using Lego Mindstorm EV3 robotic kit.
In the second group, girls are trained in basics of website development, Java, C++ and Robotics using Vex robotics Kit for Robotics.
All groups are also trained in 3D Printing!
Covid permitting, students who excel have had chances to compete and be trained at international levels. Some have gone as far as Ghana, Dubai and South Africa. In the age of Covid, girls have competed online in competitions held in South Africa and United States of America with other girls from all over the world.
“In this training, you get 3 months of Introduction, 3 months of Intermediary, 3 months of Advanced and 3 months of Executing Projects,” she said. And you pay M350.00 per month. Classes are held during weekends and holidays.
When they graduate, students have hands-on handle on issues.
They can create 3D printed objects. They can code. They can develop websites and apps, “one good girl has just created a website for her family business.”
The soft-spoken young lady with the heart of a lioness, ‘Maneo, has a lot to tell about her journey into computers and her efforts in trying to share her skills with girls in particular.
“When I was growing up, I knew next to nothing about a computer,” she said. “In fact the most time I heard about the word computer was from my brother, who wanted me to be a computer scientist.” Her brother was, ironically, studying marketing himself at the University of Durban. But he instilled the love of computers in the young lady even before she saw them.
“He firmly believed that the future was digital,” she said.
Who could doubt that view?
Anyway, time moved and he came to NUL.
She choose Computer Science and then came her first real encounter with the computer. It wasn’t easy. As a woman, it is not easy to be plunged into a field that is dominated by men.
Yet she was there, going along.
An activist by nature she was already trying a number of things to make something out of her newfound skills.
She once joined a team that was introducing lower grade students to coding. It was during these times, as they were training students, boys and girls, that she realised a difference, “boys were a bit more active, going further than where you left them. Girls were a bit slow, needing a bit of pushing at times.”
Then she thought to herself, “I want to focus on girls and give them a bit of motivation by introducing coding in a fun way, a way suited to their mode of learning.”
At one point, she remembers joining an organisation called Women in Computing at the NUL. At another point, she remembers pitching her Girls coding idea at a competition called Start-up Weekend, then winning the second prize, “that’s when I started putting my dreams into practice.” She assembled a number of partners and created Girls Coding Academy.
Off the campus, she didn’t loose the focus.
At the start, she was using the church premises for their trainings, thanks to her pastor’s permission. At another point, they were using a business space at Machache Khubetsoana. Now she is at Metcash, under the incubation program of BEDCO with the assistance of Bam Promotions.
She couldn’t be happier.
This happened after she entered a fierce BEDCO Incubation competition. Around 500 applicants were on the race in the first round. In the second round, 100 were left. She was in. In the third round, 10 were left.
She was in—among the top ten.
She qualified for a M100, 000 reward!
She spent years preparing for exactly that moment.
He adventurous nature has taken her and her team to places. She has taken some of her students to places as far flung as Dubai, she has addressed delegates in conferences such as UN Women Conference and she has networked with reputable women.
“I remember meeting one woman who had an Aviation Company and supported girls with basics of aviation in her country, at a meeting in Rwanda,” she said. She found a way to twist her hand and, “she eventually landed in Lesotho to share some of those skills with my students and other women in Lesotho.”