Nearly 120 youths, ages 14-24, now gather weekly in Rio de Janeiro for free courses about financial literacy, computer programming and blockchain technology.
World Bank research field coordinator Erick Baumgartner told CoinDesk he went to three high schools in the crime-riddled Pavuna district to recruit students for the nine-month program, which started in May.
“Even for classes that are happening right outside their houses, we’ve already had two days when they couldn’t come to class because of police operations,” Baumgartner said. “When shooting starts, people can’t go out of their houses.”
In order to serve this marginalized community of aspiring developers, the World Bank partnered with a slew of organizations ranging from MakerDAO to Banco Maré and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, plus the Brazilian education startup Blockchain Academy.
Only half of the students passed the computer literacy test to take the blockchain-focused course at the end of the program. They’ll be learning web programming basics, how to make ethereum-based smart contracts and a little about Hyperledger.
“The final purpose of all these efforts is to give them a real opportunity to be hired,” Blockchain Academy co-founder Rosine Kadamani told CoinDesk. “By the end of the training program, students are going to participate in a hackathon with MakerDAO, to have the opportunity to create something more concrete, something that could be helpful for themselves.”
MakerDAO says its goals for the program are altruistic. Nadia Alvarez, MakerDAO’s head of business development in Latin America, told CoinDesk she hopes students learn about “solutions” beyond banks and traditional financial institutions.
“What we want is to give them information to develop their curiosity around the blockchain and other financial options they have,” she said.
Kadamani added that the program offers a well-rounded education, including the risks of decentralized finance (DeFi), so that students can decide for themselves whether crypto loans suit their specific needs.
As for the students themselves, 17-year-old Luiz Felipe Rangel Silva told CoinDesk that although his family has a bank account they mostly use cash. Concepts like blockchain and payment apps are foreign to him, beyond brief mentions of bitcoin he heard on the news.
“I’m always interested in learning and being better prepared [for jobs], also learning how to make websites and software,” he told CoinDesk, adding that students were restricted from using the computer lab at his school, to curtail theft. This will be his first programming course.
MakerDAO’s Alvarez and the World Bank’s Baumgartner both referred to this program as a pilot, which they hope to expand next year if participant feedback proves it helped them gain job opportunities. Kadamani, of Blockchain Academy, noted the program is still seeking crypto-industry partnerships, with companies looking to hire or to contribute to the curriculum.
Speaking of why MakerDAO sponsored the program, Alvarez concluded:
“It’s an incredible opportunity to create new solutions thinking of the actual needs of people in different countries.”
Class photo image via World Bank