Raising Ghana’s Next Generation of Technologists: Triumph Tetteh

Selorm Tamakloe
7 min readFeb 16, 2021

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Without children, there is no future — we all know that. However, it is one thing to know children are the future, and it is another to ensure that today’s children are adequately prepared to be tomorrow's leaders.

Triumph Tetteh (founder of StartersTech) is committed to the later. With a goal to groom children and teenagers for a new tech age, StartersTech is building capacity for Ghana’s next generation of problem solvers by training them in computer programming, electronics and robotics. Let’s hear Triumph’s story.

Tell us about you.

I am Triumph Tetteh. In summary, I have grown to like helping children develop their potential. I recognized that a lot of children have incredible potential, only that harnessing that depends on how they are groomed. The question for me was — how many people are incapable of attaining certain heights because they were not groomed well? That has been my driving question.

I believe every child can do something great. Parents are already busy trying to provide for their children. In the busyness of that, they easily miss key capabilities their children have. I have sought to focus on developing children and helping them uncover what is within them.

How did you get interested in the development of children?

It started when I started teaching children to play piano while I was in university. I had no idea I wanted to work with children. My initial dream was to become a pilot (hence my BSc in Aerospace Engineering), but I got to a place in my life where I wanted to do something that wasn’t just a job. That was while I was in my final year in school. I started reading books about entrepreneurship and management.

I was pushed by the entrepreneurial drive that began to burgeon in me as I grasped the concepts from the books. I began to develop a problem-solving mindset. When I noticed there were people on campus who wanted to learn to play piano but didn’t have a place to learn, I created that solution for them. Lecturers developed an interest in the program and wanted their children to learn. That became my niche — teaching the children of lecturers how to play piano.

It was my first time handling kids. I got to quickly learn and appreciate children — their peculiarities, diversities and all. I wondered why different children were all treated the same way in most social settings. I started to wonder why in most cases, their peculiarities don’t reflect in their personalities when they grow up. Those thoughts occupied my mind extensively.

We started putting together concerts and recitals just to help the children appreciate their capabilities some more. When we held those events, we looked at their strengths and had them take care of different aspects of the organization of the concerts. I wanted the children to know that they could make things happen irrespective of their age and stage. That was when the name ‘Uncle TT’ came up — out of the connection I developed with the children through that process. I stayed in Kumasi for 4 more years after graduating from KNUST because of the children. I had to make sure the music school lived on and continued for them.

The income from the music school wasn’t that sustainable for me, but I kept pressing on for the children. Opportunities came my way that I could have jumped on, but I really wanted the children to grow so I gave those opportunities up. A number of unfortunate events unfolded over time, with the climax being an occasion when some armed robbers attacked me to steal our equipment. That was the threshold. My dad said I needed to come back to Accra and at least be with the rest of the family. Sadly, the music school wasn’t properly managed after I left, so it died away.

I still wanted to work with children when I came to Accra. I explored different ways that I could help them. I had been learning how to code and doing some basic stuff in the tech space, so I decided to combine that with working with children. I volunteered to work at a school for about a year. That was when the idea of StartersTech started.

The initial idea was to get tech tools for kids, but I realised that without guidance, the children were not making the best use of the gadgets. I began to hold workshops. We held a couple of these workshops and introduced coding to the children at the workshops. That too lacked some effectiveness, in that, after that workshop, the children didn’t commit to what they were taught. It was at that point that StartersTech evolved to building a teaching curriculum that engages children over a period of time.

How were the early years of StartersTech?

We first wanted to work directly with schools, but it proved to be difficult getting into schools. We wrote proposals and all but made little progress. We started our own Saturday sessions. After a while, we noticed some of the children were dropping out. We had to do a lot of adjustment to make the experience better for them, and that increased retention.

Eventually, one school (Harvest Christian Academy) gave us a chance to work with their school. Then a lady called Keren Akoh reached out to me from DreamOval and mentioned to me that they wanted to introduce the Internet of Things to teenagers in a Zongo community. They needed a technical person to help spearhead the project. I took that role on and put together a team of 10 ladies in the tech space — since the project was a Females in Technology Initiative. We worked with DreamOval and Soronko Academy on the two batches of the project.

That project got me connected to a couple of people, one key person being Thelma Quaye. She used to work with AirtelTigo as one of their technology leaders. She liked the kind of content we brought to the teenagers. She had some projects she was running on her own as well, and when she had to travel out of the country for a while, she had me work on some of her projects. That was a great experience in many ways. It was with Dodi International.

We finally started getting recognition for our after school programs and began to find opportunities to work with schools, while having our own weekend sessions with children in their homes and online. The journey has been in different phases.

Share some impact stories with us.

There was this one time that I noticed a little boy getting so glued to a storybook that he was reading. That fascinated me. I started to wonder how we could turn books on some of the technical things students needed to learn into materials kids will enjoy reading. We decided to create a story about a fictional universe called Tableau Periodic to teach children about the periodic table. It was centred around the noble gases, walking through the life of Argon. The children who got to read this book got to learn about the elements of the periodic table as characters in a story.

After we released that book, the illustrator and I realised there was more we could do with illustrations and animations. That was how Nexgen Creatives started as a business to create stories for children and also have a creative space for them to learn to illustrate and draw. Now, we have two businesses — Nexgen Creatives tells stories with illustrations and StartersTech focuses on STEM education for children.

What do you think is stifling innovation in Ghana?

One factor would be us not depending on ourselves in the sense that we always look outside our surroundings to find help. Take a quick scan through our educational system and you would realize that the books, tools, and majority of approaches we use are imported, even our pencils and pens are imported. People easily look outside — they quickly look to China, to the US for products. This disposition to look externally stifles our ability to fail, and without failing, you can’t learn the essentials of innovation. Failure is part of innovation.

We definitely need to look outside for examples, but we need to try to create the solutions to our needs by ourselves. Innovation doesn’t start big. We all want shortcuts, and I am not excluding myself, but we need to at least maintain a balance so we don’t become overly dependent. If you needed to build a house but you had no one to build for you, you would look for a way to build the house yourself. In some cases, we just need to imagine that no one else would be able to do for us some of the things we want to do and get them done ourselves. That is how we can innovate.

What are your final words?

Keep trying. We are mostly afraid to fail. But don’t be afraid to fail. Try, fail, learn — that’s the cycle. As you loop yourself into that cycle, try to get better along the way. The process of learning never ends.

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Selorm Tamakloe

principally an interviewer, consequentially a poet, and occasionally voicing opinions