Students attending the Zinc workshop. (Images via Tala El Issa)
Breaking into the world of IT can be tough for anyone, but in a region where there sometimes appears to be little support, it can be even harder.
At a ZINC session, held at the end of August, called ‘Robotics and Home Automation via mobile App’, the IT training hub Superiors held a discussion for students interested in the fields of Java, Android and gaming.
Amongst the more than 60 participants, mostly IT students, it was clear that many shared the same frustrations when it came to studying IT.
Here are the four main challenges felt by the students:
Amal Tawalbeh, a software engineering student, is disappointed by her university.
She says that since she started the Android course at Superiors Innovation Center she realized how weak university lectures are.
Tawalbeh, who wishes to become a good programmer, says that it is to Superiors that she turns to for support, not her university. “Ms. Ala’a, [her teacher at Superiors] is my opportunity”, she says.
In turn, Ala’a Karss, the cofounder of Superiors, has faith in Jordan’s IT potential but barely any confidence in current universities.
“We have the technologies, capabilities and great people,” she says, “but we have a weakness in directing the potential, so we need to work on that”. She continues that university lectures are very theoretical and the professors are either unqualified or not up to date.
This weakness was something Karss encountered when she was recruiting fresh graduates for an IT solutions startup she meant to establish with fellow graduates Dina Dirbashi and Hasan al-Natoor. Aside from being unable to do practical work she found they were psychologically unprepared.
This discovery led the cofounders to change their original plan and focus on what seems to be a clearly needed service - IT solutions and training.
Karss believes that because she is a developer, and has actual practical experience, she is a better teacher than someone with a PhD.
In addition to Superiors, there are several centers in Jordan who have decided to take the matter into their own hands to improve the quality of IT education. These include Pioneers Academy,Tuned Applications,International Robotics Academy, andApp Trainers.
Ala'a Karss, supplying what universities are not?
When it comes to support and advice for pursuing a career in programming, 17-year-old Dana Hmoud feels she can’t rely on her school.
The student has been keen on becoming an Apple programmer for several years but getting the right guidance from staff at her school has been limited. And it wasn’t just about support, it was the fact that she was a girl.
“[my school] didn’t support girls [in this field] because it was conservative,” she says. “For example we have a robotics club that I could not enter because it is restricted to boys… But I stayed persistent to pursue my dream…” she explains.
Hmoud, who claims to be disconnected from programmers’ communities and accurate guidance, resorted to the non-discriminant, all inclusive internet which she used for research and tutorials.
Hmoud explains that she wanted to take an iOS programming course but it required a bank account which she cannot obtain because she is under 18.
This meant that she could have used her dad’s account but she refused. “I want to start from scratch independently… from my own money,” she says.
Although Abdulrahman Al-Abdulrahman, a game developer has turned 18, he faces the problem of publishing his game, for the same reason.
“When a publisher asks you for 350 JD (Jordanian Dinars equal to about $494) in order to post your game on his website, from where can you get a 350 JD when you are still so young,” he asks.
Gender and age still prove barriers for Jordan's IT interested youth.
Although extracurricular training seems to be a better option for students like Tawalbeh and Hmoud, cost seems to be a big challenge.
Tawalbeh considers the IT courses offered in Jordan very expensive. “I was offered an Android course for 630 JDs ($888),” she complains.
In this sense, Tawalbeh appreciates Superiors for their relatively affordable prices which offer the Android course for 350 JDs.
Karss states that IT training has become commercial and exploitative.