The wise Wicca once said, ‘It takes a witch to know another.’ But what does it take to identify a talented fellow in an environment lacking resources to provide technology mentorship and pop their gift into the limelight?
Tech Kidz Africa‘ and Joseph, the teen with an untreatable crush on technology have the answer.
But first, some facts to digest.
It is easy to assume that a high school kid with less than 2-hour access to a computer per week has no business becoming the next tech wizard in town. Worse still if the 2 hours are spent doing compulsory classwork denying the kid any minute to mess around with the device and satisfy his crave.
No matter how hard the kid tries to diminish this hunger, the limited time shuts him out. He starves even more; a typical case of students in most public secondary schools in Kenya.
Well, that’s the story of Joseph Kitheka; a young lad whose hope for an opportunity to learn coding was but a pipe dream. His talent bubbled from the inside as he hoped to one day meet someone who would offer him the lessons he needed to create something useful with a computer.
Along came Tech Kidz Africa’s CEO, Paul Akwabi, the young man who could smell raw tech talent from miles away.
The Broken Mobile Phone
But the ability to pick up talent scent didn’t just happen.
At the age of 11, Paul suffered severe punishment from an aunt after breaking her phone in the name of ‘trying to find out’ how the funny-looking gadget worked.
The ever-biting curiosity bugs had taken toll of his brain, filling him with ideas that he had the muscle to do something important with it. Little did he know that fiddling with an electronic gadget could also break it.
By the time his aunt found out, Paul was in for the African kind of disciplining; facing the cane. That would teach him to stay away from mobile phones and related tech gadgets. Or would it?
He instead discovered his love for tech gadgets.
The young man completed high school and in the next possible instance travelled miles away from his Western Kenya home in search for means to tame his curiosity bugs.
He enrolled for Diploma in Information Technology in Technical University of Mombasa with the intention to master everything IT. This way, he would develop his relationship with the culprit gadget, its kind and maybe his aunt.
Deepening The Talent Inside
Throughout his stay in the university, Paul exhausted his student-mileage familiarizing with computers and learning codes. He designed projects that made the campus shine during tech-related competitions petrifying would-be competitors. And being such a good storyteller, he made sure to explain what he created in a way that made technology seem easy.
You would imagine Paul got a job with a top IT company where his tech-talent would serve best. A bank even. But that’s just your imagination.
Not all A students work for B students; some work for themselves. Like Paul.
He ganged up with a friend and setup a refrigeration company. Well off the computing scope. Or maybe not.
He did that to create a steady income for self-sustenance so he would have freedom to nurture his tech talent.
You see, talents rarely sweep money into your pocket during teething years. They are instead major consumers.
And Paul knew this only too well.
So over the next few years, he took every job that came his way and made a good deal of cash. Then during his free time, he polished his tech talent becoming one of the most sort after fellow in Mobile App development in Mombasa.
It didn’t take long before one of the mobile applications he had created while in campus began creating a buzz in Mombasa. It didn’t fetch him much money though, but it opened doors in places no one ever imagined accessible to such a lad.
Come to think of it, Paul had no godfathers to unlock doors for him in high places. In fact, he always said, “I only have God the Father.”
A man’s gift opens doors for him, and brings him before great men.Bible. Proverbs 18:16
The young man spent most of his waking hours fiddling with his old laptop, helping IT students from local campuses finish their projects and imagining himself as the next innovator. All this time, without technology mentorship.
The easiest way to spot Paul in a crowd was by the raven laptop bag that never left his back. More often than not, he was talking tech to fellow youngsters. You could even bet his next move after about 10 minutes of the chat; demonstrating how his new app worked on his phone.
Birth of Tech Kidz Africa
In 2017, Paul dared the harsh waters of nurturing technology-curious kids between the ages of 7 to 18 in the less dared path.
He had long wanted to set up a technology academy for the age group so none would have to face the cane should the curiosity bug bite like it did him. But in every attempt, something seemed to stand in his way. At last, without even the least support from organizations he sort help from, Paul registered the technology mentorship academy and went to work.
Did he have large capital for the venture?
Only in his dreams.
Only a few people in the world dare the less trodden path of backing their talent with an unshakable belief to grow into a thriving business. Most want certainty for success and ready capital before setting up. That’s why such die before birth.
All Paul had was access to a room or two at an innovation hub where he volunteered as an administrator, as his classroom. Then there was the old laptop that never left his back and a bunch of friends who daily reminded him that he had a duty to fulfill.
From the pack of friends, the first poster and video to advertise his academy were birthed and Tech Kidz Africa came to live.
Paul then went about preaching his school’s gospel to every parent he came across. It didn’t matter if their children were within the age bracket he targeted or not. Being a parent, even a prospecting one was qualification enough.
Picture a wide-shouldered 20-something smiling fellow talking to you about a technology academy for kids just because you and your spouse are expecting a baby in a few months.
That was Paul every day in 2017.
This approach bore fruits earning him slightly below 20 kids; all with cases of messing up with their parents’ phones and computers.
So where does Joseph, come in in this story?
The Curious Teen Manning His Mother’s Business
No it wasn’t a computer business or anything close to tech.
When Paul first saw Joseph, he was helping his mother sell vegetables at her makeshift grocery shop.
Paul noticed his too-calm-for-a-high-school-kid character. He wasn’t ashamed of handling vegetables the way his mother did as you would expect a kid his age.
Curiosity, again drove Paul to chat with him while buying vegetables for dinner. And as you would expect, the older tech wiz identified the raw talent in the youngster in that chat.
Of course Joseph had no way of paying the required tuition fee at Tech Kidz Africa. But he had the irrefutable currency every talented person has; a burning desire to serve in order to learn.
That earned him a high ticket entry to Paul’s technology academy in 2018.
The aspiring wiz spent every waking moment over the weekend with his mentor, following him as a chick would the mother hen. He listened, served and quizzed nonstop.
Joseph became the first kid Paul saw before any lesson and the last when the training ended. He knew where Paul and his laptop were at any one time, when the next intake was and what other technology curious kids would have during snack time.
To him, it wasn’t just about learning the ins and outs of technology; he became Paul’s armor bearer if not disciple. And by 2019, Joseph had mastered the entire curriculum of Tech Kidz Africa.
Teen Wiz Held Captive in Technology Mentorship
From the word go, Paul shaped the technology academy to cultivate and nurture the spirit of the Silicon Valley to children in Africa.
He and his polished team of trainers customize software programs and robotics kits to coach the curious little ones on proper use of technology. Kids in the institution learn how to create mobile applications, design websites, make magic with the robotics kits to mention but a few.
About the teen tech wiz?
Joseph is one among those who stand out in the technology academy. Besides developing a mobile app for his school, his passion for technology has led to becoming a tutor in the same institution. Of course it has taken hours of mentorship from his trainers, majorly Paul, to get him there.
While many kids in Kenya focus on acing the academic grade ‘A’ at school, Joseph’s main desire is to master technology and create solutions with it.
The same kid who lacked resources to nurture the wiz gene sitting dormant in him until he was 17 is now the pro other kids look up to. Sometimes even adults.
Of course Paul has also mentored other kids like Charbel Ngeti who at the age of 11 earned a name for designing websites and getting paid for it.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Trending Torturous Trails
Has anyone ever convinced you to back down from an idea you believed in because they thought it was way beyond your reach?
It happened to Tech Kidz Africa last year. When the CEO told some would-be sponsors that the technology academy could train kids around Africa how to use technology in the right way online. They shoved him off.
Boy were they wrong.
It took the pandemic to prove Paul’s point. And by standing on the seemingly farfetched dream, Joseph landed an upgrade of free technology mentorship.
Today, Joseph’s customer service and ability to train kids through live videos stands perfected thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. He no longer needs to meet the kids in person, all classes are now online!
His free time in deliberate practice for the technology he so much loves so he remains ahead in the game. Regardless of the problem faced by his students.
There’s no telling what else this tech-smitten teen will do next. But our guess is technology mentorship for many other Josephs, and maybe creation of a phone that repairs itself once broken.