Teen develops app to help learners with disability Rutendo Gandi demonstrating how the application works.

Phillipa Mukome-Chinhoi

In 2022, when 19-year old Rutendo Gandi was still doing Advanced Levels at Zengeza 1 High School in Chitungwiza, she built an educational application to assist the visual and the hearing impaired. 

Dubbed “oEssentials Technologies”, the application assists the deaf by translating text to audio and vice-versa in a classroom or work situation.  

In a classroom or work situation, they can be able to communicate, it is also interactive, and there are also animations and other features that enable the hearing and physically impaired to have quality education.

Gandi said she developed this application after identifying a social need among the not-so-privileged and limited expertise. The people that she helped were her mother’s students, her mother being a motor mechanic instructor inspired her to study computer science and mathematics (STEMS).  

“I am a young developer who is interested in the technical aspects of programming and coding but also in building applications and platforms powered by machine learning algorithms and data.” 

 “l developed an app to help disabled learners to detect and read multimedia content in text, voice, and image. I exhibited the app at different national events. 

I was invited to Nairobi where I attended the Conference on the State of Artificial Intelligence in Africa (COSAA) 2023 The Center for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT), Strathmore University, Nairobi, Kenya. In addition to exhibiting a poster on my app, I made an intervention in the AI and Innovation infrastructure capacity and data panel discussion,”.

“I also visited Rwanda where I had an opportunity to meet the diplomatic team at the Zimbabwe Embassy in Kigali. Among other issues, we discussed the importance of the role played by Zimbabwe’s software developers in the country’s development and in strengthening bilateral ties with Rwanda.

“As a young innovator, programmer/coder, and developer with a passion for STEMs, I am critically aware of the role my heritage will play in helping me navigate the complex world of innovation. However, what emboldens me is the fact that my aspirations and dreams rest on my mother’s dreams. 

“l was born and l live at a Rehabilitation Centre on a Beatrice farm where my mother is a motor mechanic. This centre offers different courses for people living with different disabilities. 

“I decided to develop an application for the institution so that education would be inclusive to all. I demonstrated the app at the Ministry of ICT and Education in Zimbabwe and they were very pleased. 

“I was also invited to a conference conducted by the Research Council of Zimbabwe, UNICEF, and Midlands State University in Zimbabwe and they were very pleased. UNICEF is getting ready to invite me to their community.”

Gandi believes in coding and building technologies that embed ethics and norms to promote social good, for example, the inclusion of the less able in mainstream education, solving some of Africa’s critical social challenges. 

She is promote STEM’s foundational skills among the youth, coding and other ICT skills, basic numeracy, literacy, and problem-solving skills. 

She engages her peers through offline and online games like chess, interactive AI, and scratch but also through sports and music.  

Although she is a computer science undergraduate at the Arrupe Jesuit University in Zimbabwe, she started coding in grade two when her father loaded programming languages, and games like Scratch and Encyclopedia Britannica on our old desktop that has sat in our lounge for close to two decades now. As a girl raised in the Zimbabwe farming area of Beatrice, she did not know that her father was equipping her for the future. 

 “I realized that although one day my applications would help solve some of Africa’s critical social challenges, I cannot do it alone, therefore I promote STEMs foundational skills among the youth (coding & other ICT skills, basic numeracy, literacy, problem-solving skills. I engage my peers through offline and online games like chess, and scratch but also sports and music.”

Gandi discovered some learning problems among those living with disability and this triggered her to develop an offline assistive application with distinctive features to support students and teachers who are facing challenges in learning because of some form of disabilities or limited expertise.  

The application will provide the learner with fully purposed learning facilities including tutorials, animated diagrams, a calculations platform, question-and-answer activities, and a note-storing platform and books. These application will be updated as time goes on if there are changes and additions to the syllabus.

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