Martha Njeri Chumo; The Self-Taught Techie & Founder, ‘The Dev School’ Kenya

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Sometimes, not getting what you want can be the best thing for you; and as Martin Luther King Jnr quoted, ‘We must expect finite disappointment but never loose finite hope.’

How do you deal with disappointment? Does it make you despair or re-consider your options? Are you easily deflated or are you the person who fights back and gains two inches for every one inch lost? For whichever category you fall into, Martha Chumo’s story will definitely add a little positivity to your week.

Martha Chumo
Credit: anzishaprize.org

At 19, Martha Njeri Chumo founded a Tech school, ‘The Dev School’ in Nairobi Kenya. The school which is not-for-profit consists of a team of IT enthusiasts who want to transform the lives of young people in East Africa through technology education.

For the past year, The Dev School has introduced 110 Kenyans and 44 South Sudan youth to coding and computer programming. Its social impact applications include solving local problems using software and working with talented youth in Kenya to for website, web and mobile applications. Children are not left out of the technology drive either as The Dev School will organise the first tech camp for kids in December 2014 for kids aged 8 – 16 years. A more ambitious project which is underway is to teach 1000 public school students coding through coding clubs in schools.

Changing the world through tech might have become a bit clichéd but aren’t you in the least bit curious to know why a 19-year old teenager starts a tech school when she could be studying to earn a degree at a tertiary institution?

Disappointment.

Credit: edition.cnn.com
Credit: edition.cnn.com

Martha was the brilliant teenager who excelled at her studies and had a ready-made scholarship to medical school. Programming, coding- those are words that were as alien to her as they are to me right now…okay, perhaps not that alien; she didn’t even own a computer whilst I spend my days clacking at a keyboard, so yes, I am one step ahead of where she used to be. Her transmutation from geek to guru happened one day in June 2012- in her words via an interview with teamtreehouse.com:

“…I went to pick something from the ihub [ihub.co.ke]. There I found people sitting, staring at their laptops. I didn’t own a computer then and didn’t have much interest. I met the person I was looking for and in the process my life was changed again, literally! The person was a web developer and he started telling me “oh computers are so cool and all,” but I didn’t believe him until he did some complex Math in irb. That got me interested!

I went back home, took my savings and bought a laptop, and Googled “How to make a computer do stuff.” That’s when I learned the word programming, and then my journey started.

I have since, turned into a Linux pro, learnt web design and development, concluded medical school is not for me, and after enough fights, I’m now allowed to ‘play with my machine’ for the rest of my life…”

Learning never ends. Never think you are too young, old, rigid, daft or accomplished to learn.

Excited about her new-found love and with starry-eyed innocence, Martha raised $6000 via online crowd funding to enable her attend Hacker School in New York, USA, but…it never happened. Her visa was denied twice. End of the line right? Or a never-ending string of visits to the US Embassy?

Credit: onepercentclub.com
Credit: onepercentclub.com

Not for Martha.

She was ineligible for a visa but not ineligible to become a better Programmer! Enter The Dev School where Martha intends to give herself and numerous young East Africans a chance to learn, improve their programming skills, and build awesome technology for Africa. These young people will get a chance to improve their skills or learn new skills while building job-creating technology, generating funds and creating employment opportunities for others; and all because she didn’t go to Hacker School!

An Anzisha Prize 2014 finalist who has been featured on CNN and BBC, Martha has huge plans to utilise technology in her entrepreneurial pursuits and in building a development firm which will solve local problems in the communities around her.

Still think getting disappointed is the lowest of the lows?

© 2014 – 2017, Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya. All rights reserved.

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