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19 yr Kenyan girl opens Hacker Academy after US visa decline

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martha chumo
Martha Chumo is on an ambitious path to establish Kenya’s first exclusive coding academy.

We must admit that it’s a bit embarrassing to pick local stories from international media but if it’s really inspiration and positive (which is rare) then we go all out, but of course give credit.

CNN featured a story of 19 year old Martha Chumo who has unbridled determination and ambition for her age.

Chumo is clearly intelligent. She was at the top of her class in her high school and was waiting to join the University of Nairobi to study Medicine when she got interested in programming.

“Learning code became my obsession. In June 2012, I took the little I had saved and bought a computer, installed Ubuntu and quit my internship,” Chumo told Code Academy in an earlier interview.

She spent hours at iHub learning and interacting with the community members and within a short period she was conversant with Ruby on Rails programming language.

“Programming opened an unknown world to me. I was planning on going to medical school, like most top-students in Kenya do. Now I’m taking a year off to explore software development. I’m especially excited about the world of open source software.”

Two months ago, Chumo applied and was accepted to the renowned US-based Hacker School, where upcoming programmers are enrolled for three months to write code, learn new languages and share industry insights.

iHub
iHub Nairobi

Although the tuition fee was catered for, Chumo needed to take care of her air fare of $4,200. Ever the enthusiast, she turned to the online crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo. She raised $5,800.

Happy that her travel costs had been taken care of, Chumo’s only other requirement was have US visa processed.

But the US embassy did not share her enthusiasm. Her profile – single, young girl, not in school – scored low and did not show sufficient “social ties” to Kenya according to the US visa section.

You would have thought the visa denial would have put discouraged the 19 year old but that only served to redirect her energy to a bigger dream.

“I thought if I can’t go to hacker school, let me try to bring the school to me,” Chumo told CNN.

She turned to the same crowdsourcing fund raising site with plans to start her own developers’ school in Nairobi.

Chumo says that, similar to Hacker School, Nairobi’s dev school will run for three months and be free of charge for participants. Its goal is to equip young programmers from across East Africa with valuable skills and help them build exciting new technology for the continent.

Barely a month after she launched her bid to start Nairobi Dev School, she has secured space for the school and managed to raise $12,000 out of a $50,000 target.

“In some way, it was a good thing that they didn’t let me go to Hacker School.”

Source: CNN and CodeAcademy

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