A weekend school for future computer programmers

August 26, 2022

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Meet Mosharraf Hossain (the software engineer with more than two decades of experience) who teaches students on the weekends to make computer programming popular at the mass level. The school is driven by Hossain’s passion and his belief that future careers will be dependent on coding

Inside a moderate-sized apartment room in Dhaka’s Mohammadpur, a middle-aged gentleman was giving instructions to some students at a computer lab set on a conference table.

“So far what we have done? Counted total number of a specific alphabet and its percentage in a string [of Python programme]. Now we will apply a formula and calculate some variables instead of mentioning the number to solve different problems,” Mosharraf Hossain, the instructor, told his students.

The students were learning how to identify repetitive alphabets, specific word counting, word percentage and how to measure the length of a string–ordered sequence of characters in a computer programme.

Breaking the taboo that only science students can learn computer programming, the attendants, all from non-science academic backgrounds, were following the instructions like attentive followers. Software engineer Mosharraf, tutoring computer programming or coding and robotics at his private arrangement called Community Computing School (CCS), believes that any student having basic knowledge of mathematics can grasp his lessons. 

Mosharaf Hossain believes that programming is a crucial skill the students need to develop to cope with the fourth industrial revolution. Photo: Noor-A-Alam

He doesn’t give tutorials with technical jargon. Given a simple problem like counting the total days between 2004 and 2010, the learners first identify if there was any leap year or not. Then they sum up the days. 

“Solving very simple problems like this, they learn three basic lessons of computer programming: sequence, selection and iteration, even before I teach them coding. If they understand the three steps properly, they can develop computer programmes or work in robotics,” Mosharraf briefed about his teaching method.

Equipped with a software engineering career of more than two decades, Mosharraf launched CCS in December 2019 intending to make computer programming popular at the mass level.

Initially, he tried to set up a computer lab at a conventional school. He didn’t receive a positive response. Finally, he built the present lab at Mohammadia Housing Society, Mohammadpur.

A solution architect of Tiger IT Bangladesh, Mosharraf does not live on tutoring computer programming. This is his passion. 

Photo: Noor-A-Alam/TBS

Mosharraf had no computer science degree. He was a self-learner. From some open sources, he learned computer programming and started his career in 2000 as a junior software developer at Genesys Software in Dhaka. Before Tiger IT, he worked with Grameen Solutions as an engineering manager, a project manager of Uniqa and the head of the software department of Aplomb Tech.

He is so adamant to pursue his passion that he did not give up despite his private school being closed, almost for two years, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Every Saturday, Mosharraf’s weekly day off, he teaches computer programming to students ranging between fourth graders and graduates.

There are a few educational institutions, particularly the English medium-based, that teach computer programming as an after-school activity. As he wants to spread advanced education among mass students, he primarily has chosen his pupils from the Bengali medium schools and colleges.

“There is a global network called Code.org providing numerous tutorials on computer programming. But how many students at conventional Bangla-medium schools can access or grasp the lessons? That’s why I have organised this private school,” Mosharraf said.

He believes that programming is a crucial skill the students need to develop to cope with the fourth industrial revolution.

He hopes that someday, the physical labour-intensive job sectors will be transformed into Artificial Intelligence-based. It will be more competitive and the future job aspirants, now students, now need to get prepared accordingly.

“Moreover, this skill enables a person to solve problems and build self-learning strength. Coding can help them develop their maths-solving brains. Whatever a student is studying, coding a computer programme is an important supplement,” Mosharraf said. Coding is a primary method for communicating with computers. It is using a language to give a computer instruction to perform specific functions.

Photo: Noor-A-Alam/TBS

For children and adults, learning to code has many benefits including promoting logical thinking, creativity, building persistence, resilience to troubleshooting and communication skills.

A management graduate, Lovely Hoque was learning Python (a computer programming language) at CCS.

What is your future career goal? Lovely replied, “If you read the forecast, you can see the IT-based job market. The tech ventures are attracting investments.

“I prefer working from home with handsome compensation. Skills in computer programming either will help me develop different software or enable me to work in my preferable fields,” Lovely expressed her hope.

Lovely started to visit CCS one and a half months ago. Before that, YouTube documentaries and peer discussions made her interested in computer programming.

Inspired by Lovely, Nirjona – a Bangla language student at Eden College Dhaka – also has enrolled in CCS.

“I have not set my future goal yet. Still, I am learning and the problem-solving procedures seem very interesting to me. I guess I will explore new ideas someday,” Nirjona said.

Mosharraf considers Python the best language for beginners to learn to code. Working with Python, learners can develop cross-platform applications suitable for Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS.

“Skilled in Python, students can develop IoT [Internet of Things] projects. Moreover, they can explore AI-based machine learning and robotics,” Mosharraf said.

At CCS, he introduces his students to equipment including passive infrared (PIR) motion sensor, touch sensor, water sensor, ultrasonic sensor, micro bit (small single-board computer), and others which are used in robotics.

In a hands-on learning process, he teaches students how to create different kinds of robots that are programmed to ring alarms when garden plants need water or show traffic signals and many other things.

What are the things a student needs to learn these things? “Nothing much but a simple computer. Python is an open-sourcing programming language. You need only to download this,” Mosharraf replied, adding that most of the equipment for simple robotics is available in the Dhaka market.

He teaches coding, application development and robotics in a three-month course. Students have to pay Tk2,500 for each month.

He does not collect the three-month course fee at a time. “Because a student may lose interest. Hence, I keep the payment system flexible,” the tutor said.

The visionary software developer, like others, knows well that Bangladesh has human resources but there are few professionals in the IT sector. That’s why he provides students with primary knowledge about computer programming so that they can develop their skills more while doing internships at the available software firms.

He demands that the government incorporate computer programming in primary schools.

“Future career will be dependent on coding. Robots will take the burden of laborious jobs. Only intelligence will dominate in the competitive fields,” Mosharraf concluded.



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