SLOWLY, the gender ceiling in Information and Communications Technology is being lifted across Nigeria. Although there is still a wide gap, more women and girls are gaining access, training and employment in the field. However, change is oozing much more slowly into the grassroots.
Many girls at the lower rungs of the society have never touched a computer, let alone owning one. That was the case for Blessing Joseph, until she came in contact with the James Ogunbor Educational Foundation. Joseph, while speaking to Hitech Start-Ups, seemed quite computer savvy; she had learned the basics of coding and could build a game with supervision.
“I was never really interested in the computer, but this experience has made me realize that I can do well in computer programming,” she told this reporter at a computer programming initiative organized by JOEF in Lagos recently.
At the programme, organised in partnership with Engineering Information Foundation which engaged about 60 primary and secondary school girls for free, founder of the NGO, Ms. Odegua Ogunbor said: “I was even finding it difficult to teach some of them during my session with those in primary school. I would mention a word like click or mouse and they would have no idea about what I was talking about, so we started by teaching them the basics. When they came in, we did a survey and found out that most of them were coming in contact with a computer for the first time.
“Our vision is to support children with educational opportunities. One way we do that is through the Engineering and Technology Innovation Programme for girls. Today’s outing is an initiative of that programme. It is all about training girls in the area of technology and engineering because these are areas where you find very few girls. If you go to an engineering or technology class, you’ll find one girl among twenty boys. So we are trying to bridge that gap early enough that is why we are targeting the girl child.”
“We want them to know that they have what it takes to be one of the engineers and technologists; That no career is specific for any gender. We are doing this three day technology workshop with girls having full practical sessions, learning how to design programmes, games, websites, building simple computer applications for mobile devices.”
An engineer herself, Odegua wants to kill the idea that tech stuff is just for boys. “We are engaging them in hands on, practical sessions and they now realise that it isn’t as difficult as it looks. Our desire is that once they have this basic knowledge, they can develop interest and consider a career in related fields.”
This already finds expression in Hannah, a senior student at Isheri Grammar School: “I’m currently in the process of learning how to build a game. And I am confident that by the end of the training I should be able to do it on my own. It turns out that it is not as difficult as I always thought. That’s what I want other girls to know. We can do this and it’s not just for boys. We have the same brains as boys.”