In the bustling downtown area of Joburg, the city is alive with vibrancy, colour and an undeniable sense of motion. Things seem to be always moving! There’s a particular pace — fast, intentional and purposeful. People are on the move, and they know exactly where they are going. Nestled in the heart of this, is the premises for WeThinkCode_, a tuition-free coding school that offers an exciting opportunity to young South Africans. As we make our way through the campus, we are greeted by the same energy inside as out.

There is an abundance of iMac computers with students huddled together in groups deep in discussions. As we pan the room looking for any signs that point to a classroom: blackboards, podiums, lecture halls? A reminder that we’re on a campus, not Google or start-up offices; is nowhere in sight. At the tech institution, one of its founding principles is to democratize and revolutionize education and learning. They achieve this by making it open and accessible to all talented young people (aged 17 – 35), regardless of their educational background. At the institution, there are no fixed academic entry requirements for the applicants. Whether one has a Matric or not, they can still make it into the program after completing a thorough application process that includes three aptitude tests and a coding bootcamp.

What is required is a passion to learn to code.

At the institution, there are no teachers, nor classes; students simply learn through a peer-to-peer problem-solving environment. A hands-on and practical approach to the ever-changing digital tech world. As an institution, WeThinkCode_ was first established in 2016, and now has over 400 students based across both Joburg and Cape Town campuses. The student bodies are made up of individuals from vastly diverse backgrounds and journeys; each filled with a passion and determination to make their journeys’ in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The first student we converse with is Quentin Manamela, who is hanging out in a spacious open area filled with colourful bean-bags. This is where students brainstorm ideas and enjoy downtime. Manamela’s journey at WeThinkCode_ began immediately after his Matric year. “I sat down with my father and we were discussing where I would go next. And he told me, basically it wouldn’t be financially possible for me to go to any tertiary institution. I would have to work part-time and go later on to university. I then stumbled upon the WeThinkCode_ advert on Google and clearly, this is was a pathway for me. It was free, and revolutionary in the way it teaches people how to code. That’s when I was taken aback by WeThinkCode_”.

After completing his first year at the institution, Manamela completed his first four-month internship at the institution’s Joburg campus, where he could apply much of what he had learnt.

Whilst much of the world is being shaped by technological innovations and advancements on a daily basis; many of us interact with these technologies without batting an eyelid as to what goes into the making of them. How often do you ask, “what actually happens when I log into Facebook, Twitter or any other app?” Or even the websites we use when looking for jobs?

Behind all of these apps and websites is a software engineer who writes a set of instructions (in a preferred coding language) that tells the device what to action. To help figure this out and understand the gravitas of coding in the future (think M-PESA and the growing role of mobile money emerging out of Africa and changing the world), student, Naledi Matutoane gives us some insight: “Coding is an avenue for people to learn how to use their abilities to create what they want. It enables you to do what you want without asking other people. It empowers you to do what you want”.

Are you interested in joining WeThinkCode_’s full-time, two-year programme including two paid four-month internships and a job placement on completion? Applications for cohort 2019 close on 31 December 2018. Apply now: https://apply.wethinkcode.co.za/jobstarter.