PWSAfrica (Programming Workshop for Scientists in Africa) is a project within the School of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom. It has the goal of equipping African Scientists with computational skills for more efficient researching. Its purpose is to help bridge the gap between manual and computer-assisted methods for solving computational problems and to ease data processing. In the end, it will help improve researches in Africa to be compliant with best practices in the world.
Learning programming in Nigeria is quite expensive and so only a few persons could afford it even though all scientists need it. I am one of those who need it but could not afford learning it. When I learnt that the PWSAfrica team is coming to Nigeria, I quickly submitted an application to participate in the workshop, gladly, I was selected! The next challenge then became, ‘can I really learn programming?’, “it is too tasking and brain-teasing” they say. So I attended the workshop with a feeling of both excitement and anxiety. However, my experience at the workshop took away my anxiety and increased my excitement for I was able to learn a lot of skills needed for my M.Sc project work.
The facilitators: Sofiat, Fionnuala, Tom, Ben and Fatma were great! They were able to interpret the course materials to us in sequences we could follow and the materials too were easy to understand. From the first day, we started using the Jupyter environment. The facilitators were always ready to help with tips, they were never tired of our questions; the good, the bad and the annoying. The facilitators provided enough challenging exercises per day (thanks to Tom) and also motivated us to think and create codes. Sofiat was always ready to push a participant out of his/her comfort thinking-zone. Ben and Fatma were never tired of answering our questions, and Fionnuala humbly explains and figures out difficult areas. It was wonderful learning with assistance from the PWSAfrica team and my fellow participants.
I learnt these about programming languages like Python; they are dumb! And so can only do what they are asked using what they have and are instructed to use. Secondly, no one knows it all in coding so you must be flexible and ready to learn from others. Thirdly, the only way to learn is to try, make mistakes and then figure out the error in the code. Finally, I learnt that you can only discover as much as you are willing to explore or try new things.
The participants were also very amazing in their demonstration of team spirit, collaboration, in questions raised and this made the workshop really engaging. A big thank you to the University of Glasgow’s School of Computing Science, the PWSAfrica team and the Department of Mathematics, University of Ibadan for this great opportunity. I am most grateful!
OSUNNIYI KOLAWOLE (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)