Student perspectives

A 13-year-old Refactory graduate wants to use technology to reform Ugandan education.



March 9, 2023

Aretha Mugulusi has just completed her primary seven at Greenhill Primary School and recently finalized the Foundations of Software Development course at Refactory. She spoke to Eddie Ssemakula about growing up techy, admiring a female software engineer, and reforming Ugandan education.

You can tell from her choice of words that Aine Aretha Mugulusi is not your typical aspiring senior one student. Her answers are crisp, her articulation deep, and her dreams large. She will be joining Nabisunsa girls’ school, having completed her primary seven at Greenhill Primary.

Born to Ronald Mugulusi, a logistics and supplies professional, and Joan Talibawo, a professional teacher, Aretha first heard about Refactory during her primary seven vacation. She'd later enrol in the program to hone the coding skills she'd long-developed at home with the assistance of her mother. “I was learning Python long before and was getting interested in all kinds of gadgets, so this was timely for me,” she recalls.

Besides her other interests in mathematics and reading novels, she’s deeply inspired by the English mathematician Ada Lovelace, famed for inventing software programming.

When she kicked off class at Refactory on January 16th, 2023, she found the class’s average age intimidating. “I had to mark my ground and make sure I was noticed. “I set a goal to learn and achieve, and I achieved it,” recounts a firm & determined Aretha.

She recalls learning about Linux and her instructor introducing her to a robot she was supposed to write instructions for. That’s when she realized she could achieve something feasible in the tech sector; she specifically got curious about tools helpful in designing smaller websites, for example. When she eventually got introduced to content management systems like WordPress and WebFlow, she realized some lessons were going to become practical sooner than  she thought. Now she only had to adapt her new favorite tools, like Webflow, to solving community problems.

The personal development classes in the foundational software certificate class Aretha took at Refactory left a mark on her. Since then, she’s been practicing a lot of listening skills, thanks to the tips from a Sean Covey book included in the curriculum, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Instructors at Refactory implement a learner-centered approach, which allows students to ask all sorts of questions and run assignments to implement from class sessions. I loved it!," Aretha exclaims. The foundational course is open to entrants at all education levels and includes units on career planning, leadership, and personal development.

What she’s capable of today.

Aretha can build websites, and she’s keen to help Ugandan web service providers build clean, airy, light, and interactive websites. “Nobody should feel like they are signing a document or a contract when looking at your website. And yes, I am looking for opportunities to work,” she adds.

Aretha’s dream for the education sector

Aretha is not a bystander regarding the current state of education in Uganda. She says since kids her age are frequently exposed to technology early, the basic computer education they later receive in primary school is essentially irrelevant.

“Learning about computers and Microsoft Word/Excel for a whole year or more is not effective, these should be strictly taught and concluded in primary three. We should go beyond. Web design and coding should be familiar to learners by primary six,” she adds.

Her dream and the problems she hopes to solve
Aretha is committed to seeing her design path make an impact in the world, starting with schools and how they aid learning. She wants to help schools set up online portals where class notes can be accessed without difficulty. Aretha is currently working on building her portfolio website. She is grateful to Refactory for believing in and equipping many young people like her.

“We need Refactory; in fact, I want to become a tutor there. The future is not a place for you if you don’t know tech. I am also thankful to my parents and siblings for being what they’ve been on this journey, supporting me through this core experience. Thank you," concluded Ms. Aretha Aine.

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