Coding in Schools

We bring Coding & Robotics to learners who need employable skills most

Photo of Emma Dicks
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  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Emma Dicks

Initiative's representative date of birth

29 April 1989

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Woman

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • South Africa

Where are you making a difference?

SAME - South Africa

Website or social media url(s)

When was your organisation founded?


Focus areas

  • Helping people adapt to technologies of the future
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce
  • Creating digital tools

Project Stage

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $50k - $100k

Organisation Type

  • Hybrid

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

I founded the education institution Codespace because I wanted young Africans to hold the power to create technology. Particularly, I want young black women to be able to have influence in our local tech companies because they hold the power to create technology. I see this come to life when I walk into a trendy tech company and bump into one of our graduates, Amanda, who before studying with us had been sitting at home with a young child with no employment prospects, yet now is employed as a developer and glowed with energy and hope as she mused, ‘every evening I come home knowing my little boy will have a professional mom to look up to’. She is no longer confined to a township, but can imagine herself influencing our country.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

South Africa’s education system is not training young South Africans with the skills they need to be able to take hold of the employment opportunities in our tech industry. Moreso, education quality is deeply divided by race, as a legacy of apartheid. For every 200 white children who start school, 10 complete school with the grades to study Engineering at university. For black children, only 1 in every two hundred will have the opportunity.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Codespace supplements the existing school system with additional coding and robotics short courses that a learner can take during school or after finishing school. To date, these courses have been delivered in a blended learning format, with teachers utilising the CodeSpace digital platform to deliver content in the classroom. Since submitting the first round of this application, Covid19 has radically reshaped the school environment in South Africa with all schools closed. In response to this, we shifted from blended learning to 100% online training for our tertiary courses, but our school classes ground to a halt when schools closed. Seeing parents struggle to keep children entertained, we offered a free online coding course that students could sign up for directly. On Wednesday we enrolled 1000 learners, and have 700 pre-registered for the next week through a form shared to our network on our social platforms. The course is still in progress, and teaches using a blend of online content that learners access through the CodeSpace platform, and webinars. Since the course started, organically over 30 schools contacted us about bringing our courses into their school.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

Our educational offering is defined by our belief that relationships are key to learning. We believe that we need to be able to empower teachers to bring our courses to life for learners. Last year, we saw a change in national curriculum policy such that coding and robotics will now be part of national curriculum. This opens up the opportunity to work directly with teachers, to train them to be able to teach our introductory level courses as part of their curriculum. With the change in policy, we introduced a new product for school teachers. Teachers can now train directly to use our course materials to teach coding and robotics in their class.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Our courses teach coding and robotics, which are skills that are currently required in the South African, and global tech industry. Beyond training people to go into specialist IT roles, our courses address the fact that the fourth industrial revolution means that it is no longer just a few people who need to specialise in technology skills but requires a broad base of people who are able to leverage technology to enhance their area of expertise. Alongside teaching coding, we have four curriculum pillars: Leading Your Learning, Leading Your Career, Leading Change and Leading Self. In short, we say that in our courses young people "learn to code, and code to learn". Our focus is to develop life long learners who have the learning ability to constantly acquire new skills as the job market evolves.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

As a practical example of how we create lifelong learners, we prepare all of our students for the fact that in their first job or internship, they will most likely need to acquire a new programming language. We focus on preparing them to be ready to do so rather than teaching them every imaginable coding language. We track their ability to learn new skills by regularly assessing the number of programming languages/ frameworks they use day to day against a benchmark of what they knew upon graduating.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

In the South African market there are several coding schools, including Umuzi, CodeX, Younglings and WeThinkCode. They all are only for school leavers, whereas our learning path runs from school to tertiary studies. We proactively connect students who complete our high school courses into these programmes, as well as our own tertiary courses. At a school level, we are the primary organisation who offers courses and the largest player to offer teacher training.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We consider our impact the difference between a young person’s projected lifetime income before doing our course, and their projected earnings after doing so. When we have measured this, we see our graduates join the IT industry and shift to a higher and steeper income trajectory. Every month, our graduates collectively earn nearly ZAR1million. Had they not completed our courses, their collective projected earnings would have been ±ZAR350,000. Thus, monthly, we see ZAR650,000 created for predominantly black households. We have an additional, broader measure which we call ‘career acceleration’ which encompasses not only earnings, but also job satisfaction and societal influence. Satisfaction is self-reported. Societal influence is measured as management positions in the workplace or leadership positions in the community.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Our primary revenue stream is course enrolment fees. In the case of low-income students, we have a non-profit scholarship fund and a payments plan. As well as B2C sales, we sell directly to schools and educational groups who enrol groups of students.

10. Team

We have a founding team of three people with backgrounds in Mechatronics Engineering, Software Development and Business respectively. We have an Engineering team who builds the technology we leverage to run our classes, and a Marketing/Admissions team who deals with student intake. As we grow, our Education and Operations teams are the ones that will grow most.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • Gender

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

When I originally started the project I offered coding classes only to women. I felt first hand how women has less access to strategic power in businesses because they were not in technical roles in the tech industry. Globally, only 1 in 5 executives of tech companies are women, and this is the power dynamic I wanted to change. It remains a primary motivation of mine to be able to provide education that helps women gain more influence in the tech industry and business.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Search engine

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

At the end of 2015, Pheliswa's school-leaving marks excluded her from university. Without tertiary training, her prospects narrowed to minimum-wage jobs. In 2014, she had attended one of CodeSpace's highschool coding courses. This opened up the field of IT as an option for her. In 2017 she enrolled to study full time in one of CodeSpace's tertiary courses. For four months she received intensive training that prepared her to work as an entry level web developer. At the end of her training we matched her to a company in our employment alliance where she did a three month internship. She then secured a 12 month contract with a different company in our employment alliance, and has been working there for over 24months now. During those 2 years she frequently contributes to our teaching team and pays her skills forward to girls still in high school. She currently earns six times minimum wag

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Planning & Strategy
  • Monitoring Impact
  • Board Development

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

individual donations or gifts 2%

foundation or NGO grants 0%

bequests 0%

corporate contributions 16%

grants or contracts 1%

earned income (product or services sales, licensing, franchising, consulting, financing, etc.) 81%

other ___%

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

Our primary strategy is to shorten our sales cycle. To date, when we sell our high school level courses, we have primarily been pursuing B2B sales by approaching schools directly who enrol learners directly. When we sell our tertiary courses, we have only one start date per semester. If we shift to a more online approach, and target high schoolers directly instead of via their school, we will increase our potential sales. We are introducing a tiered pricing strategy where learners can take courses online free of charge, and pay for each additional service they would like, eg certification, personal coaching, code review.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

1. Increase B2C sales by letting students to be able to attend our courses 100% online. 2. Train teachers to augment the online learning experience with in-person interactions that they facilitate in their classrooms. We cannot presume that teachers will become the primary instructors of coding courses, but we can equip them with facilitation skills that allow them to create richer learning experiences. 3. Allow students to independently augment their online learning experience with in-person interactions. For instance,access to physical learning spaces and coaching.

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

Alongside teaching coding, we have four curriculum pillars: Leading Your Learning, Leading Your Career, Leading Change and Leading Self.

We see these as our opportunity to equip young people with the attitudes and skills they need to create change in their own lives and communities. 

We have seen this play out -- last year 50% of our high school teaching team were young women who previously did our courses and are now enrolled in IT undergraduate degrees. 

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

Fortune Dept of State Global Women’s mentoring programme, 2018

Westerwelle Young Founders programme, 2018

Diageo Social Entrepreneur Leadership Programme, 2017

Google RISE award winner, 2015

Queen’s Young Leaders Award Winner, 2015

WeTech Grant recipient, 2014

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

We are actively looking for a way to zero-rate our learning platform so that mobile data does not prevent low-income learners accessing our platform. We would like to work with to do this, but would need to secure a partner to foot the cost of the data for low-income learners. 

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

Evaluation results

16 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 62.5%

Yes/maybe - 31.3%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 6.3%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 87.5%

Yes/maybe - 6.3%

Maybe - 6.3%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

Yes, absolutely! - 62.5%

Yes/maybe - 18.8%

Maybe - 18.8%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 100%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 61.5%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 61.5%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 76.9%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 0%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 25%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 75%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 12.5%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 12.5%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 100%

Other option - 25%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sihle Mabombo

This is a great initiative, one that will pay dividends for generations to come.

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