LINDIWE Matlali gave a Tedx talk last year at TEDxBeaconStreet in Boston Massachusetts about how people can teach kids who do not have access to computer how to code through knitting

Lindiwe Matlali started Africa Teen Geeks (ATG) back in 2014 after she was inspired by an 8-year-old girl from the US who had started her own app.

“I was so inspired, while I was on an executive programme there, I googled what options we have here at home only to find that IT is taught from Grade 10-12 and in affluent schools especially.”

Matlali, who has made a name for herself in the tech world was recently named the 86th Commonwealth Point of Light in honour of her exceptional voluntary service providing technology education to young people. The honour was bestowed upon her by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

ATG is an organisation that teaches school children and unemployed youth how to code. Inspired by her experience being orphaned at a young age, Lindiwe is inspiring Africa’s next generation of technology innovators by eliminating the barriers faced by disadvantaged communities in pursuing science, technology, engineering and maths.

“I started the organisation as part of a Mandela Day initiative actually. I took children from Tembisa and we brought them to Unisa labs and introduced them to computer science and programming.”

Matlali’s achievements include MTN Women In ICT Community Builder Recognition Award 2018, TechWomen Fellow 2017 and Innov8tive Magazine’s ‘Top 50 Visionary Women in Tech To Watch’. She’s also mastered the art of TEDx talks.

Matlali said she was happy that ATG has grown beyond her imagination.

“We have reached over 38000 kids that have done our programme and we have signed an MoA with the Department of Basic Education, helping them to develop coding and robotics in the curriculum from Grade R. We are building our own platform which I am really excited about. The children will be able to learn coding in their own languages so they don’t have any barriers. When they learn to read, they will also learn about basic code in their languages.”  

Since 2014, the organisation has trained over 110 teachers from disadvantaged schools and provided computer science training to 30 schools across underprivileged communities.

As part of the legacy of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London 2018, The Queen - as Head of the Commonwealth - is thanking inspirational volunteers across the 53 Commonwealth nations for the difference they are making in their communities and beyond, by recognising one volunteer from each Commonwealth country each week in the two years following the summit.

“I didn’t even know I was in the running for it so it came as an awesome surprise when I was honoured. I was informed that I was selected as a Point of Light because they were able to see the work that has been done.”

Now, Matlali and her team are working on bringing their first hackathon, n partnership with Facebook, to the youth.

“We are going to have high school kids with university kids, which is really my passion. Getting varsity student s to mentor high school kids and get them interested in this event. It will be one of the first where the kids will be linked with professional mentors from Facebook.”

The hackathon will take place next month in Lagos, Nigeria.

@mane_mpi