As an alum of the Global UGRAD Program, Achraf Boughzala didn’t waste any time after returning home from an academic year exchange at the University Of Utah. Once back in Tunisia, Achraf teamed up with other U.S. Department of State Exchange Alumni, who were equally passionate about digital learning and computer programming, to start their first-of-a-kind Education endeavor in Tunisia, the Young Tunisian Coders Academy (YTCA).
YTCA’s main objectives is to spread knowledge and pave the way for younger generations to enter the digital world and provide training in various technologies such as coding, video game development, and robotics using the most simplified, interactive and attractive tools which also develop their soft skills and leadership all at once.
Winner of the State Department’s Alumni Engagement and Innovation Fund (AEIF 2015), YTCA benefited from the support of the U.S. Department of State and the mentorship of Najla Abbes, Alumni coordinator at the American Embassy at Tunis, which was fundamental for the young YTCA team to get in action and start implementing their idea in May 2015.
In less than a year, the team succeeded in training over than 600 children in 23 of 24 Tunisian regions in many technologies including SCRATCH (video games) and APPInventor (Mobile applications), both developed by the MIT Media lab, in addition to Scratch for Arduino and Blocklyduino (robotics and connected objects). YTCA focuses its efforts on the deprived regions with limited access to technology and education, gender equity among beneficiaries of the trainings, and encouraging disabled kids to participate as well.
Demonstrating their strong leadership, Achraf and his colleagues were a true inspiration to Tunisian youth who believed in their mission and showed a strong will to join the initiative as trainers or even holding key positions in the newly established organization.
So far, YTCA has shown proof of early-stage success, highlighted by the Tunisian Competition in Scratch, the SCRATCH Challenge of TUNIROBOTS, the national robotics day in Tunisia, and the YTCA Tech Summer Camp. As the organization matures day after day, YTCA has gained the trust and support of many leaders in the Tunisian Tech ecosystem, especially after announcing it as the official implementer of the Africa Code Week 2016 in Tunisia (ACW), an annual continent-wide event that aims to democratize digital literacy and will take place from October 15 to the 23rd this year.
The ACW initiative brought a lot of attention to YTCA, and hundreds of volunteers answered the call and applied to be ACW trainers and teach coding to a group of local children.
“In a short time, YTCA trainer’s network had expanded enormously, especially after launching the event on social media as hundreds of volunteer trainers showing a great will and motivation to serve the YTCA mission and embrace its vision and values. This is the next big thing and YTCA will exceed expectations as usual,” Achraf said. “We are committed to raise a generation of digital natives, purpose-driven, self-learners. We are ALL IN for a better Tunisia.”
With the help of the multi-expertise network mentors and advisors, active YTCA members are looking forward to raising the bar higher with multiple ambitious and impactful projects. The next on deck: Tech-kids lab, a shared tech space for kids dedicated to collaborative projects and common good (Inauguration in 2017).