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Technology

School carves niche moulding students to be top innovators

Moringa School
Students in class at Moringa School, Ngong Road, Nairobi. PHOTO | FAUSTINE NGILA 

When Newton Karanu dropped out of university in his first year in 2017, his peers laughed him off while others told him life would come to punish him later for the decision.

The 21-year-old was undertaking a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology when he realised the course content of his studies could not equip him with the requisite skills he wanted.

“The course had too much theory. I felt there was no way I would benefit from a four-year study that does not involve solving real industrial problems,” says Mr Newton.

“It was meaningless to invest so much time and still graduate with no skill of creating a simple Android app.”

He chose to join Moringa School, a technology training centre located at Nairobi’s Ngong Road, where he enrolled for a rigorous four-month tech course the same year.

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When Digital Business visited, we found him preparing for a lesson to teach his class of 40 students.

“When I graduated from the training, I was hired by a real estate company as a developer. I created automation and data integration services for the firm before Moringa school called me back and gave me a teaching role in Java and Python programming,” he says.

Moringa school’s way of teaching IT schools is revolutionary. The institution looks for student with a particular set of skills. To join the school, a candidate goes through an interview to assess their passion, creativity, resilience and ability to comprehend technology processes.

When Digital Business visited, there were around eight classes in progress, with students in different levels of study called modules, each with a laptop following instructions from their tutors known as technical mentors.

Brian Marete, who has been mentoring students at the school in the past three years, says the curriculum provides intensive training in Artificial Intelligence, data science, machine learning, gaming technology, programming in Python, Java and Javascript.

Initially a student at the school, Mr Marete reveals that top performers in successive evaluation tests are retained by the institution on permanent employment while most of the rest are directly linked to technology jobs in the market.

“We teach them how to create apps for Android Operating System, how to code websites, servers, desktop software, mobile games and equip them with critical thinking skills so they can create bug free apps to solve problems in the economy,” he explains.

And it is not just students from university or straight from high school who join the school. Rose Oketch, 26, a fashion designer who graduated from the school last year and retained as a technical mentor, says she joined the hub when an IT professional introduced the idea to her.

“I had a diploma in IT but I felt there was a big gap in what I knew and the real technology world. I am passionate about the power of digital innovations. I have since bridged that gap and I am now helping my fellow lady students to learn the magic of modern programming,” she says.

Peter Muturi, 21, a trainer in Full Stack Python 3.7 says he aspires to keep his class of 42 students updated and skilled in the lastest market demands.

“Nowadays technology is changing at the speed of light. If you’re left behind, what you already know goes obsolete in less than a year,” he warns.

Boyd Ndonga, an expert in Artificial Intelligence at the hub says the objective of the modules is to prepare brains for Kenya’s Silicon Savannah.

“Most of the students admitted here lack practical skills in the job market. We work closely with them for 20 weeks to fill these gaps,” he remarks.

Students are drawn from all sectors without discriminations of age, profession or nationality to participate in the project-based curriculum.

“I joined this school because I am aware of how technology is gradually disrupting every sector including law,” says Mary Onkundi who is an advocate of the High Court, adding that she yearns to be the reference point on matters data privacy, cyber security and blockchain by the time she graduates.

A normal lesson at the school lasts 30 minutes, starting from 8.30am to 6pm form Monday to Friday. Evaluations are both group- and individual-based. There’s an individual project evaluation every Friday.

What attracts students to the centre is the certainty that well performing students get connected to tech employers immediately after graduation. They also enjoy full time free internet access.

Aspiring students are requested to apply for the modules online where they book an interview and join the classes after completing fees payment. There are currently 250 students and 19 tutors at the tech park.

Established by Audrey Cheng in 2014, Moringa School seeks to help prepare qualified employees and experts for the technology market by feeding them with updated tech content and skills.

Stacey Ondimu-Kimani, the institution’s country director, says Kenya needs to scale up technology infrastructure to support the tech talent in the country and encourage women to take part in the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’.

“We are now partnering with the Rwandese government to empower their girls to embrace technology through our Women in Tech project. Men in Kenya outnumber women at a ratio of 3:1, and that makes most of the apps created male-minded,” she says.

“Most parents and guardians love our job placement programme after graduation. Some have come from as far as Ghana and Nigeria. We endeavour to be ahead of the market.”

The park has seen several devices, software and apps being developed with students also benefiting from weekly blockchain trainings.

Africa’s first author on blockchain, Benjamin Arunda, is an alumni of the school. The programmer cum accountant says the institution’s tech environment was one of his key inspirations to pen Understanding the Blockchain in 2018.

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