Bytes, Design, and Cybersecurity: Fletcher High School Girls Dive into Tech Universe

In a groundbreaking event that could reshape the future of Zimbabwe’s tech industry, Fletcher High School hosted an intensive ICT training day for 188 female students last week. The initiative, spearheaded by the Fletcher Old Student Association (FOSA), aimed to bridge the gender gap in technology and inspire the next generation of women in STEM.

FOSA members pose for photo with female ICT enthusiasts at Fletcher High.

“I never thought I could build a website. Now, I can’t wait to create my own,” beamed a Form 2 student, her eyes shining with newfound confidence. This sentiment echoed throughout the school halls as girls from Forms 1 to 6 engaged in hands-on workshops led by prominent women in the tech industry.

The event comes at a crucial time. According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, women occupy less than 30% of tech-related jobs in the country. “We’re not just teaching skills; we’re changing mindsets,” said Ms. Chivamba, the lead teacher coordinating the project. “These girls are the future of our digital economy.”

Engineer Musora from the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services set the tone with a rousing keynote address. “The government is committed to supporting ICT initiatives in schools,” he declared, emphasizing the critical role of technology in shaping future careers. His words struck a chord with 17-year-old Tatenda M., a Form 6 student who confided, “I was considering law, but now I’m seriously thinking about computer science.”

The day unfolded with a series of dynamic workshops. Samkeliso Ndlovu, a renowned software developer, kicked off with “Code Like a Girl: Introduction to Coding.” “Seeing these young minds grasp coding concepts so quickly is truly inspiring,” Ndlovu remarked. Her session left students buzzing with ideas, from creating apps to solve local problems to designing educational games.

Celesani Moyo-Sibanda followed with “Digital Art and Design,” showcasing how technology and creativity intersect. “Design isn’t just about aesthetics,” she explained, guiding students through digital art basics. “It’s about solving problems and communicating ideas effectively.”

The challenges faced by women in tech were addressed head-on by Faith Mudavanhu in her talk, “Breaking Barriers: Women in ICT.” Sharing her journey from a small town to a leadership role in a major tech firm, Mudavanhu left students with a powerful message: “Don’t be discouraged. Take charge. You are destined for greater heights!”

Sharon Kandemiri’s session on “The Future is STEM: Exploring Career Opportunities” opened eyes to the vast possibilities in technology. “There’s a place for everyone in tech, whether you love math, art, or working with people,” Kandemiri emphasized, dispelling myths about tech careers being solitary or male dominated.

The final workshop by Rosemary Mukarati on “Cybersecurity: Empowering Girls to Stay Safe Online” proved particularly timely. With Zimbabwe seeing a 300% increase in cybercrime since 2019, according to recent police reports, Mukarati’s practical tips on digital safety resonated strongly. “Let your voice be the beacon that guides others to safety,” she urged the attentive audience.

Fletcher High School students in IT class.

Headmaster Rev. Mazule sees this as just the beginning. “We’re not just preparing students for existing jobs; we’re equipping them to create the jobs of tomorrow,” he stated. Fletcher High School’s initiative aligns with a growing trend across Africa, where similar programs have seen a 40% increase in female enrollment in tech courses, according to a 2023 UNESCO report.

Local tech industry leaders have taken notice. “Events like this are crucial for developing our future workforce,” said Tendai Mutasa, CEO of a prominent Harare-based software company. “We’re looking forward to collaborating with Fletcher on internship opportunities for these bright young women.”

The impact of the day extended beyond the workshops. During breaks, the school buzzed with excited chatter as girls from different forms exchanged ideas and formed impromptu coding clubs. “It’s not just about what we learned,” shared a Form 4 student. “It’s about realizing we’re not alone in our interests. We’re part of a community.”

As the sun set on this landmark event, the energy remained high. Plans are already underway for follow-up sessions and mentorship programs. “This isn’t a one-off event,” assured the FOSA Leaders. “It’s the start of a movement.”

In a world where technology is reshaping every industry, Fletcher High School is ensuring its female students are not just participants but leaders in this digital revolution. As one Form 1 student put it, her voice filled with determination, “Today, I don’t just see computers. I see my future.”

Wadzanai Chihombori-Ndlovu is the Monitoring and Reporting Officer Gender Standing Group Internet Society Global.

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