By Foday Moriba Conteh
On Friday 28th February 2020, one of Sierra Leone’s leading GSM mobile operators, -Orange-SL in partnership with the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and ST Foundation, Bridge the Digital Divide-Sierra Leone launched the Super Coders Programme at the Kolenten Junior Secondary School in Kambia District.
The launching was graced by Orange-SL Shop Head, Kambia & Kono, Ortise Campbell, SLP Traffic Management Kambia Division, Inspector Brima Lamin Kamara, Principal Kolenten Junior Secondary School Kambia, Fr. Jacek Pielak, representative of Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union Kambia, Mohamed S. Jalloh, representative from the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation, Devshi Mehrotra, Honourable Member of Parliament Constituency 060 Kambia District, and Hon. Bai Sama Kamara, who officially launched the Super Coders Scratch at the Kolenten Secondary School in Kambia.
Addressing the participants on behalf of Orange SL, Shop Head Kambia & Kono, Ortise Campbell, disclosed that Orange being a multi service provider and a responsible corporate citizen places emphasis on corporate social investment, adding that in the last three years, Orange has invested about $400,000 mainly in the areas of Women Empowerment, Health, Education and the Environment and that the company remains the first operator in Sierra Leone to contribute to the government’s Free Quality Education (FQE) Agenda by pledging the sum of $1.5m in material assistance over a period of five years.
“Orange in partnership with the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), designed five projects. One of such projects is the Super Coders Scratch Program, in which Orange, in partnership with ST Foundation, intends to introduce ICT training on basic coding for children in 100 secondary schools with existing ICT labs over a period of five years,” he disclosed.
He said that the implementation will be done in two phases: First batch of 10 schools commenced on Wednesday 19 February 2020 for the next ten days in various government-assisted schools with ICT labs across the country.
The Second phase of 15 schools will be rolled out in May 2020.
He noted that the Super Coders Scratch Project is an introductory ICT training program for children between ages 9 to 16 years, pointing out that Scratch is a computer programming language. He said that in Scratch, programs are made by joining together coloured blocks using the Mouse. These groups of blocks (called script) tell characters on the Screen (called Sprites) what to do. Scratch is free, safe and fun to experiment with.
He stated that with Scratch, children can make their own interactive Stories, Animations, Games, Music, and Art further revealing how Scratch has large collections or libraries of cool graphics and fun sounds to play around with, which enable children to solve real life social issues through coding and animation.
He maintained that coding once introduced in related schools by Orange, will be included in their ICT curriculum and will be taught by the ICT tutors in each school. He reiterated how many would recall that Orange commenced the execution of its FQE project in October 2019, where the company distributed 2,000 hygiene packs to 20 schools in the Western Urban and Rural areas, conducted awareness and sensitization on menstrual hygiene and sexual reproductive health, adding that this year, Orange-SL will roll out all five projects before the end of 2020.
“As a global telecoms player operating in about 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East, Orange aims at being the leading partner in the digital transformation of all our countries of presence. In achieving this ambition, Orange has included education as one of its key pillars under its CSR policy,” he underscored.
Director, ST Foundation, Bridge the Digital Divide-Sierra Leone, Mohamed Dumbuya, disclosed that Scratch is a free programmable toolkit that enables kids to create their own games, animated stories, interactive art and share their creations with one another over the internet.
He extended gratitude to Orange Sierra Leone for partnering with ST Foundation in implementing the Super Coders Scratch Project in secondary schools across the country.
He also buttressed that the Super Coders Project is an introductory ICT training program for children between ages 9 to 16, adding that the union, marriage or partnership they are enjoying was created by UNICEF-Sierra Leone by introducing the two parties and bringing them together.
He revealed how STF/BDD-SL has been working in providing ICT education for schools and tertiary institutions in Sierra Leone for the past 10 years and within that period of operations over 145,000 Sierra Leoneans have benefited.
He said ST Foundation has 31 locations in the country, but that Kolenten Secondary School is the only beneficiary in Kambia District, adding that they have presented a list of schools that will benefit the Ministry of Education for approval and urged the pupils to make good use of the opportunity offered by Orange and ST Foundation.
Orange CSR Officer, Rebecca Sogbeh, disclosed that Orange in partnership with the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), designed five projects. One of such projects is the Super Coders Scratch Program, which Orange in partnership with ST Foundation intends to introduce through ICT training on basic coding for children in 100 secondary schools with existing ICT labs over a period of five years, adding that Orange-SL remains to be the first GSM operator in the country to contribute to the government’s Free Quality Education (FQE) initiative by pledging the sum of $1.5m in material assistance over a period of five years.
Sogbeh maintained that in fulfilling their commitment, in 2019 Orange launched and rolled-out hygiene packs for girls aged 12-18 years, adding that they are going to donate 10,000 packs over five years and over 2,000 sanitary packs yearly to schools.
She further disclosed that Orange-SL will launch and roll-out during this year, solar kits for school children in the rural areas, out of which 1,000 solar kits will be distributed over five years to 200 villages without grid to be covered per year, stating how they will install them in local libraries/community centers/schools etc. and 100,000 individuals are expected to benefit from the project.
She ended by saying that Orange-SL will also roll-out Open Class Room program that will enable 300 free certifying digital courses, 10-20 Hours on-line work where 500 teaches will benefit in five years.
Honourable Member of Parliament Constituency 060 Kambia District, Hon. Bai Sama Kamara, who officially launched the Super Coder programme at Kolenten Secondary School, also expressed appreciation to Orange-SL and ST Foundation for the implementation of the project in their District.
He encouraged the targeted beneficiaries to make maximum use of the Super Coder programme, as this will enhance their development as children, adding that they will continue to support Orange-SL and ST Foundation in rolling out programs that are meaningful and beneficial to the children of this nation.
He admonished the teaches to grab the opportunity that will be given to them by Orange, which is the Open Class Room program that will enable 300 free certifying digital courses, 10-20 hours on-line work, where 500 teaches will benefit in five years.
The event was climaxed by Project Digital Demonstration, which was done by the representative from the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation, Devshi Mehrotra.