Learning a new language is difficult. Now imagine trying to do it in your second or third tongue. As an English speaker, picture the nightmare of being taught Mandarin in French. That’s effectively the scenario that plays out when non-vernacular English speakers try to learn computer code. But this is changing.
Teacher Remora Ramraj is out to bring down the language barrier preventing young South Africans from exploring programming as a career path. She works with CodeMakers, an NPO founded by Harvard graduate Justin Yarrow. The organisation is offering children in Durban’s Umlazi School District, which contains 179 secondary and 278 primary schools, the opportunity to learn code in isiZulu, the most widely spoken tongue in KwaZulu-Natal.
“We have young minds that need to be moulded and there’s so much potential,” says Ramraj. With technology providing a more diverse array of jobs than any other modern industry, the ability to understand code is invaluable. Through CodeMakers, the children of Umlazi are beginning to consider careers like animation and web development. By imparting to them a useful skill, the initiative is broadening their horizons.