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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Kenyan Female Entrepreneur Who Set Up Her Own School After Being Denied A US Visa

Meet 21 year old Martha Chumo from Kenya, a self taught computer programmer who intends to break the myth that programming is too difficult for young people to develop skills in. She is the founder of The Nairobi Dev School, a school that equips youth in East Africa with computer programming skills and helps them build technology-based solutions to everyday challenges. The Nairobi Dev School has since conducted skills development training in Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia.

Chumo decided to toe the path of entrepreneurship after being denied a US Visa. Her school was established in 2012 and she hopes to teach children in rural Kenya how to write code, and break the myth of technology being too difficult for young people to develop skills in. Read excerpts of her interview with How we made it in Africa below:

Give us your elevator pitch.
Our goal is to equip young people with software development skills they can use to solve challenges around them. We talk about technology a lot in Kenya, but what does it really mean for education, healthcare and farming? We want to make technology relevant to us. We teach beginners as well as experienced people such as fresh graduates.

I have found when someone is learning something to get a job, they are motivated to do the minimum required because their aim is a job, not to transform the world. But I like the energy and naivety of young people. At age 14 they have nothing to lose, their parents are giving them pocket money and they have time. They can throw in as much creativity and take risks.

I got into technology right after high school and learned a lot on my own. So I really want to teach children. Next month we will begin training teachers in a number of rural schools that have computer labs. In many, you will find at least one teacher who is passionate about drama, who takes time to write plays and coach students for national competitions. And they do it for free. 

We hope to reach a few teachers that are just as passionate about technology; who can run clubs and teach code as a co-curricular activity. The myth is technology is too hard and is a reserve only for geeks. But I see it as a skill like music, art or drama any child can acquire with training and creativity.

How did you finance your start-up?
In 2012 I did an online campaign on crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo to raise money to attend a hacking school in New York. I managed to raise US$5,800 but the US denied me a visa because I lacked “social ties”. So I launched another campaign and raised an additional $15,000 which I have used to finance the business. I just made a video using my mobile phone and convinced people to buy into my idea. The second fundraising campaign enabled me to share photographs and show people the work we are doing. Looking back, I’m happy the visa was denied because it made me do something at home.

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