Coding course launched to encourage more girls in ICT field

Participants at the opening session of the programme yesterday in the Education Lecture Theatre at UG’s Turkeyen Campus.

Over 40 young girls will over the next 12 weekends undergo training in coding as part of an initiative to encourage and nurture their participation in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) field.

The opening session of the Guyanese Girls Code programme, which is an initiative of the Ministry of Public Telecommunications in collaboration with the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) and the University of Guyana (UG), was held yesterday at the Education Lecture Theatre at the Turkeyen Campus.

The programme is designed to teach Beginners Coding/Programming to Guyanese girls between the ages of 11 and 14. The goal of the initiative is to address the gender disparity in the Guyana’s ICT sector, where women and girls remain underrepresented.

“You are the chosen generation. You guys are going to transform Guyana with how you use and promote ICT”, Minister of Public Telecommunications Catherine Hughes told the participants during the welcome remarks.

Hughes said at last opportunities can be given to girls to ensure that they can fully participate in the important field. “So, today is really the start of a whole new journey that you girls will undertake, hopefully starting today, the experience will go with you through the rest of your lives,” Hughes said.

Hughes noted that this is important since usually when situations arise involving the use of computers and ICT, there is little or no involvement of girls, and “…we want to make sure that the girls are equally there.”

“Normally, we are faced with the question: where are the girls?” Hughes observed, while relating that sometimes in a room fill with about sixty people who are all computer graphic specialists or programmers or website developers or animation developers, there are only two girls.

She stated that in developed countries across the world, women can be seen operating at the “higher levels” and this should also be visible in Guyana.

“The great thing is more girls are doing well at high school, more girls are going into university, so we girls have got the capacity to do it,” Hughes continued.

She said that her ministry always believed that they had to make a change and “…that we had to train more of our Guyanese women to get into Information Technology. ICT is not only meant for boys and girls. Women are exceeding, exceling and they are leading in many ways.”

“There are so many facets of being a part of this ICT thing, not just the laptops, tablet, phones, all of that is part of the ICT agenda, so you have nothing to be bored about,” Hughes related while telling the young girls, “you have a wonderful opportunity, take advantage of it”.

Meanwhile, Penelope DeFreitas, Head of UG’s Computer Science Department and Lead Instructor of the Guyanese Girls Code Programme, said that the number of participants is overwhelming since only about 20 girls were catered for during a discussion of the plans for the project.

The curriculum will cover both theoretical and practical aspects, DeFreitas said. The theory, she noted, will be about 40 percent of the course and covers a range of topics, including the pioneers in computer science, practical applications of software and hardware in the real world, security and the responsibility when it comes to using technology, while the practical aspect will encompass a number of activities.

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