BEIRUT: A young woman from Beirut strives to improve the conditions in her country with an unconventional solution: She teaches young people how to code.
Again and again people approach the young entrepreneur Nour Atrissi. They congratulate and smile at her for a reason. The 29 year old, who presented her company on the sidelines of a tech event in Beirut Digital District, has been accepted into a renowned startup program funded by Beirut based accelerator "Speed@BDD."
It supports her and the founders of nine other startups with a 30.000 USD cash injection, training, as well as a network of mentors and business angels. With that help, Atrissi now hopes to move her company TeensWhoCode to the next level and make it grow. In order to change society she teaches young people how to code, which she considers her mission.
"I want to create a new generation that is not yet screwed up," Atrissi says. That is why she empowers teens finding solutions for all kinds of social problems and builds the life they want through coding.
In Lebanon things are moving in a direction that makes it difficult for young talents to succeed and find suitable jobs, Atrissi notes. Corruption and nepotism, "wasta" as Atrissi calls it, flourish rampantly. A highly qualified person, like herself, who studied food science in France and speaks flawless English, must witnesses how other less qualified people get the best posts just because they are well connected.
Poor physical infrastructure with low levels of public service provision even for essentials such as waste collection, electricity, water, and high levels of bureaucracy, flank this situation.
Moreover, Internet connection is often slow and expensive. It is not surprising that "Lebanon continues to experience the outward migration of young educated people,” she says. This at least is the conclusion of a global entrepreneurship report, issued by UK Lebanon Tech hub, an international initiative that aims to support the entrepreneurship landscape in Lebanon.
But Atrissi isn't the person to dwell on problems, so she decided to turn her frustration into something useful. Her solution to a sleazy country: code. Before digitalization, it took millions of dollars to create meaningful change. Huge investments are necessary for research funds that would produce scientists many years later. "Today, a few lines of code are enough," she says.
"Anyone who is able to program can build a massive shift. That possibility did not exist so far. That is why I want to equip Lebanese students with this golden key and turn them into problem solvers.” That would give them, even in a corrupt country such as Lebanon, but also beyond, best job opportunities, Atrissi is sure.
The woman, who explains her idea breathlessly, works with a network of teachers and mentors, currently primarily in workshops and in four week summer camps. In addition to programming, students take courses in entrepreneurship, game and app development or robotics. What distinguishes her offer from others is that "At TeensWhoCode you also develop a new mentality as we want to turn young people into changemakers,” she notes.
With Speed's support, Atrissi is now working on scaling up her startup. Since TeensWhoCode started to operate in 2015, 300 young people have taken courses. According to Atrissi, interested students will able to also take online courses in Arabic, French and English starting from December 2018.
Hence her services will be accessible in the whole Middle East and beyond. Mentors shall be available in online chats for questions. Those who succeed in the tutorials shall be able to exchange credits for services, such as rides with driving service Kareem, Atrissi tells Annahar. Moreover, TeensWhoCode intends to further match successful participants with companies for internships.
Annahar's "Faces of Lebanon" is an occasional series that takes a look at talented young Lebanese. We encourage you nominating candidates and telling us their story. Send your nominations to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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