15-year-old Deborah Tesi (pictured above) walks about 30 minutes to Cyinzovu Secondary School in Kayonza district in eastern Rwanda every day. Last born in a family of four girls, Tesi plans to study Computer Systems or Software Development when she completes senior 3, despite some discouragement based on prejudices against girls in science and ICT.
At home, Tesi is known as the ‘phone technician’. She has limited access to computers at school, and she doesn’t have one at home. She has only a basic knowledge of computers. Tesi sometimes uses her father’s smart phone since she does not have her own. But surprisingly, whenever there is an issue with her father’s smart phone, she is there to fix it.
“Once, the screen on my father’s phone turned black. He asked my elder sister to help solve the problem, but she failed. I asked my father if I could give it a try, but he hesitated as he had no hope that I could find a solution! I searched ‘how to fix black screen issue’ on Google and followed instructions step by step, until the issue was fixed in the end. Everyone was surprised!” Tesi said.
When schools closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, her teachers would send exercises via WhatsApp groups to her father’s smartphone, so Tesi could access them. After doing exercises, she could also explore more applications on the smartphone.
“I always want to discover more, so I take advantage of every opportunity that arises to improve my ICT skills.”
Facing prejudice against girls in ICT
Tesi has noticed that there are more boys in science and ICT than girls.
“I once heard on the radio about a group of eight university students who attended an ICT workshop in China with only one girl among them! I was really shocked. I also got embarrassed another day when a university graduate at my village discouraged me to study computer science. He told me that it would be difficult for me. But he never says this to boys! Some people think that girls are meant for easy jobs such as working in hotels as waitresses, tourism…while boys do ‘difficult’ jobs and therefore should study ‘difficult’ subjects. I don’t agree with such misconceptions”, Tesi said.
Tesi’s sisters always encourage her to study computer science.
“They also tell my father that I should choose ICT/computer science subjects next year. This is already a good indicator and assurance that I will get support from them when the time comes. I hope my father will buy me a computer to help me learn better.”
Scratc²h: introduction to coding
Tesi was invited to the Scratc²h 2050 project launch last October, organised by VVOB in partnership with Rwanda Education Board, Rwanda Polytechnic and Rwanda Coding Academy, a project supported by the Wehubit programme of Enabel. This is when she heard about coding.