Impala Bridge: How Code Club is helping to bring digital making to Benin

Code Club started in 2012 in the U.K., with the aim to give local children a chance to learn to code. Fast forward ten years and there are Code Clubs in over 160 countries around the world, with partner organisations* working in many regions.

In Benin, Impala Bridge is a partner organisation using Code Club and CoderDojo programmes to give young learners (and educators) access to digital making. Izzy, Global Community Coordinator, caught up with Martin Mbaga, one of the co-founders of Impala Bridge, to find out more.

Local Benin educators

The inspiration

Martin and the other co-founders were inspired by their own experiences; many of the volunteers are former refugees. While living in refugee camps in Belgium, they had the opportunity to learn coding and other digital skills. For Martin, this helped inspire his passion for technology and community outreach: “Belgium has given me something, now I have to give it back.”

How does it work?

Impala Bridge operates in Belgium and Benin. In Belgium, the focus is on refugee camps, teaching coding and robotics. In Benin, they work with other organisations to support Guerra Digital Innovation Hub. Operating in Parakou, North Benin, Guerra helps the community improve their digital literacy in several ways. Educators and volunteers are given training to improve their own digital skills and prepare them to run clubs. In turn, these teachers and volunteers go on to set up Code Clubs in local secondary schools.

Code Club leaders gather together from across Benin

Powered by people

During our conversation, one thing comes up again and again: people. “For me it’s all about people,” Martin says. “School teachers and directors of the schools (particularly our early adopters from Albarika College), IT leaders and ministry workers, the Director of UNFPA (United Nations Fund for Populations) and UN agency innovation teams, without them this wouldn’t work. Giving those people recognition is important.” He also highlights the volunteers, from the edu-lab.be teachers in Belgium connecting with teachers in Benin, to the local university students running clubs, to the schools themselves: “If you don’t have people, you can’t do anything.”

Hopes for 2023 and beyond

Based on the success of the current model, the team at Impala Bridge hopes to expand the area they operate in and increase the number of clubs. They also have plans to create a regular cohort of learners using Micro:bit computers. They have already run several events of this type, and they hope for the learners — mostly girls from the local community — to take part in the annual Micro:bit challenge.

Code Club members

More broadly, Impala Bridge hopes to continue to help the community as a whole. Martin explains that EdTech entrepreneurs who volunteer at Code Clubs have gone on to use their learnings to help create virtual solutions and make jobs. And for the learners themselves, Code Club is opening up new possibilities for their lives: “With IT and globalisation, you can make your future better.”

Find out more about becoming a Code Club partner organisation

*The Raspberry Pi Foundation partners with organisations around the world to help support local Code Club and CoderDojo communities. Growth partners start and support a collection of clubs in their own network, while national partners take on the responsibility of supporting all clubs in their country, building a nationwide CoderDojo or Code Club community.

BBC micro:bit launches in London!

On Tuesday we attended the launch of the BBC’s exciting new micro:bit project in London. As a partner organisation of the BBC’s flagship Make It Digital initiative, which aims to get more young people across the UK involved in digital making and computer science, Code Club couldn’t be more excited to see the new micro:bit revealed in all its pocket-sized glory!

The micro:bit, measuring just 4cm by 5cm, is a stripped down computer which children can use to code and create anything they set their minds to! It’s intended as a starter device to give children a basic introduction to physical computing and tinkering, so that they can move on to using the more advanced machines such as Arduino, Galileo and Kano.

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Key features of the micro:bit include:

  • A display consisting of 25 red LEDs
  • Two programmable buttons
  • On-board motion sensor or “accelerometer”
  • A built-in compass or “magnetometer”
  • Bluetooth Smart Technology
  • Three Input and Output (I/O) rings

The introduction of the micro:bit has been inspired by the success of the BBC Micro back in the 1980s (a tool which gave a lot of our Code Club volunteers their first hands-on experience with coding and computer science).

Speaking at Tuesday’s event the BBC’s Director General, Tony Hall said: “Just as the BBC Micro introduced millions to personal computers 30 years ago, the BBC micro:bit can help equip a new generation with the digital skills they need to find jobs and help grow the UK economy.”

We’ll be supporting the BBC micro:bit initiative by creating a set of learning resources for the device, which will be available to use in our Code Clubs to help children harness the power of the device and to see the impact that programming can have on their day-to-day lives.

Children will learn introductory programming and computational thinking concepts, and apply them in making a range of fun programs for their micro:bit.

We’re also really thrilled that the BBC will be providing us with 20,000 micro:bits so that our Code Club members and volunteers can get a chance to use them too – for free! Stay tuned for further details coming soon.

Read more about the micro:bit on the BBC Make It Digital website

*Big thanks to our volunteers Joseph Haig, Marc Burrage and Stephen Manson who gave us a helping hand at the launch event :)