Fun book aims to get teenage girls coding

Editor Buhle Ngaba hopes SA version of 'The New Girl Code' will encourage more to go into tech careers

The South African editor of The New Girl Code, actress and writer Buhle Ngaba, has “so many” hopes for the book, with the first being that as many teenagers as possible lay their hands on it.
She is part of the team who have taken The New Girl Code by Niki Smit – sub-titled “the launch of a fashion app” – and translated it from the original Dutch.
Ngaba, 28, who studied drama at Rhodes University and was a member of Ubom! in Makhanda (Grahamstown), bubbles over with excitement at the thought that the book may influence future careers.
“At the moment I just want for it to get in the hands of as many young girls as possible, because at that age I didn’t understand how creative coding can be – and it completely is!” Ngaba said.
“As an artist, actress and writer I assumed this thing called coding had nothing to do with me but I found later that it would have helped even to know just a little bit.
“For example, if you know code, you can build your own website, which can empower you as a business. It’s like learning a language.”
Part of her job as editor was to take the Dutch text, originally called Project Prep and rework it for a different country and culture.
“I tried very hard to make sure the characters in the book were truly reflective of people in South Africa now," Ngaba said.
“I wanted to use the names of real people in creating the South African landscape. If any of the young girls reading it do decide to go into coding then they can go and Google the names and they will find this person is actually who the book says they are.
“I also was very aware that it must be the voice of a South African teenager, not just with references to someone from the US or UK.
“You can’t just guess what teenagers think or say, so I researched on a real teenager and that really paid off.”
Project Prep was launched with the support of Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, where as well as being a best-seller it also has become a movement.
The publishers now hope it will do the same in other countries such as South Africa to inspire and empower girls to work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
Ngaba – a regular on National Arts Festival stages in Makhanda – founded the NPO KaMatla and wrote The Girl Without A Sound, using her writing, acting and work at KaMatla to inspire black youth, particularly women.
Her work on The New Girl Code ties in with this drive to help youngsters find their own voices in a world where they are often disempowered and dismissed.
The New Girl Code project is an initiative of non-profit organisation Inspiring Fifty, a non-profit organisation that aims to increase diversity in tech by making role models more visible.
The book is the joint effort between the Dutch team of Smit, tech entrepreneur Janneke Niessen and illustrator Josselin Bijl, together with SA editors Andrea Stanley and Ngaba.
Zizonke May reviews The New Girl Code: The Launch of a Fashion App for The Herald
Dutch author Niki Smit has put together a story about the world of technology and fashion, with a strong emphasis on self-growth and entrepreneurship.
In her book, The New Girl Code: The Launch of a Fashion App, published in South Africa for the first time in November 2018, Smit gives a fresh approach to every girl’s daily dilemma.
It encourages young women not to be afraid to pursue their dreams no matter how outrageous and improbable they may seem.
The New Girl Code tells of grade 8 pupil Tumi Letsatsi, who discovers the world of coding and creates an app called “Project Prep”, with the help of her friends.
(There is a bit of confusion regarding Tumi’s age and favourite colour as the summary says it is yellow and the book says it changes with her mood but one thing that’s certain – she is in the third term of grade 8.)
The book is about four teenagers and sets about inspiring the next generation of women but it also speaks to friendships, love, relationships, entrepreneurship, fashion and other life challenges. Not only that, it also looks to bring the fun back into technology – specifically computer studies.
Tumi highlights all the concerns and misconceptions a lot of women have regarding technology. She shows how innovation and creativity, together with technology, can be used across the board.
Although the book is aimed at girls between the ages of nine and 15 – Tumi’s age bracket in the book – it is fun for older readers also as the desire to create or develop something, or start a business resonates with most people.
The New Girl Code is filled with quirkiness and modern terms and trends and may not be for the more academic reader.
It’s also filled with graphics but is not necessarily your typical picture-story book.
It also has clip art and colour themes to add to the visual feel of the book. or to the reader.
Once you pick it up, you can’t won’t put it down!
The New Girl Code: The Launch of a Fashion App by Niki Smit is published by Inspiring Fifty and retails for around R120.

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