In the midst of great risks, painful stories and more, we have a reason to smile and cherish. Under the Girls Who Code initiative, the daughters of domestic workers in Pune are being trained in computer coding. This training not only helps them improve their creative, logical and problem-solving skills, but also their academic skills, shares Madhu Pandey, Programme Officer, AEAI South Asia.
Every Saturday evening, a group of girls meet at the AEA-run childcare centre in Pune to diligently learn computer coding. The girls, aged 10-14, are from poor domestic worker families and are part of AEA's project 'Redefining the lives of domestic worker girls through quality education', supported by WeKare in Pune. The girls did not know what coding was when they started their coding learning journey in September 2021.
"The 4-month basic training covered commands, sequences, variables, loops and conditionals. We intend to teach advanced coding concepts and languages as they progress," informs Nikita, coding instructor. The training has changed the way these children view technology and empowers them to create digital tools. "At first, I was a bit worried because I knew nothing about coding. But soon after I took my first class, I realised that coding was my thing. I was looking forward to learning new concepts every week," says Vijaya Vishwekar, a class 9 student who has been involved in the project for the past three years. "Coding has helped me improve my English vocabulary. Thanks to coding, I am now good at time management and I understand the difference between hard work and smart work," adds Vijaya.
"The way coding requires logical reasoning and breaking down complex problems into simpler parts is also applicable to me in real life. These methods also help me solve some of my personal problems," says Muskaan, a Grade 11 student.
The coding classes complement what is taught in school and help them improve their communication and analytical skills. There is a significant improvement in the academic skills of these girls. "The courses focus on problem solving and analytical skills, which are essential for study and daily activities. Subjects like science and mathematics, which I used to find complex, are now simple and easy to understand," says Gayatri More.
Similarly, Anjali, a student in class X, heard about coding from online advertisements, but did not know what it was exactly. She heard about the coding class from a friend who is part of the project. Access to a laptop gave her the added benefit of practising the concepts at home during the weekdays. She wants to become an IAS and is convinced that coding can help her pass the UPSC exam in the future. She now plans to develop applications for the safety of girls in her locality.
To ensure the safety and comfort of the girls, a vehicle was hired to pick up the girls from various locations where the childcare centres operate and bring them back after school.
In November, a felicitation programme was held where the girls received certificates of participation. The girls were more than happy to share their experience of learning to code.
Every other night, these girls go to the child support centres where they receive special classes to improve their academic skills. In addition to encouraging these girls to develop innovations and critical skills, including creativity and empathy, the coding classes give them the opportunity to see the world differently and to unlock their potential.