Updating her math skills, a young woman wants to help girls in Kenya learn coding

“Where I come from, there’s not much emphasis put on coding. And it’s only when I was out of school for four years that I started this journey to learn coding myself. And that’s when I realized that there was such a gap between what people perceive computers to be and who’s supposed to work with computers. Back home, more men than women work with computers.” Shaheera Kanani, a Kenyan student at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), said.  

Shaheera Kanani 300x300“I feel like students, especially girls, should learn coding at a young age. It’s important for girls to start thinking from a young age that they too can create things that can help make their communities a better place to live in.”

Shaheera has overcome several challenges to study computers at NVCC. After graduating from a high school in Kenya, she took a gap year to do community service. She planned to enroll in college at the end of the year, but when she was diagnosed with keratoconus, a degenerative disorder of the eye that required her to get transplants, the year stretched to four years. After she had healed, Shaheera moved to Virginia because her family’s visa to the United States had been approved, and she enrolled at NVCC.

Returning to school after four years presented another challenge for Shaheera. She had forgotten a lot of what she had learned, especially in math, a subject that she had struggled with in high school. But her Pre-Calculus and Trigonometry professor assigned homework in MyMathLab®, an online program that personalized learning for her.

“The really good thing with MyMathLab is that when you click on ‘Show Me an Example,’ it teaches you exactly how to solve the problem,” Shaheera explained. “There’s a video, and there’s also a section that lets you go back and study previous material, like algebra or mental math.”  

“Our professor gives us one task every week, but it has fifty questions. Every day, I practice at least five or ten questions. So by the end of the week, when it’s due, I’ve practiced every day as opposed to just the times I go to class.”

When you practice concepts with MyMathLab, they stay with you.


Shaheera’s experience with software like MyMathLab is one reason that she is pursuing a degree in information technology. “I became more interested in computers after coming here because everything is done on the computer,” she explained. “There’s so much software, like MyMathLab, that helps students who are struggling in class improve their learning process.”

After earning her degree, Shaheera would like to work in the education software industry and return to Kenya to help girls learn coding. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to give something back because that’s the place I spent a lot of my early years.”