How schoolchildren from Narva created a startup that solves the difficulties of the region

The story of EDUKOHT startup is the story of how three Narva high school students and a student decided to create a startup to teach schoolchildren the basics of programming. From scratch, without a cent in your pocket. Note that it was in Ida-Virumaa, a region that is considered to be “problematic” and “depressed” in our country.

The founders of the EDUKOHT startup (from left to right): Mikhail Belov, Siimon Härm, Vladislav Virtonen and Georgy Sokolov A photo: educated

After 9 months, 160 schoolchildren from 10 to 16 years old are studying in the EDUKOHT program in Ida-Virumaa: 110 in Narva and 50 in Kohtla-Järve. The social enterprise plans to expand, opening new courses for schoolchildren not only in other Estonian cities, but also in the Baltic countries.

“We started working in March this year. With minimal advertising, without the support of experienced mentors. It turned out that the demand is huge, and there is practically no supply in this area in Ida-Virumaa,” says Vladislav Virtonen, the ideological inspirer and co-founder of the EDUKOHT project.

Social enterprise – an organization that acts to achieve a certain public goal, using for this income independently obtained from the sale of products or services.

Social enterprises use all profits to further develop their activities.

“Two of us organized multimedia camps with the Japanese a year ago (Narva activists created the Tech Heroes Club program, which taught programming for schoolchildren in Japan), and when we started doing something similar in Narva, all the participants were delighted, the parents were incredibly grateful. Then we thought – is there really no one else teaching programming in Narva? “- says the twelfth grader.

More trust

“Our model is as follows: we hire high school students and students who know the basics of programming (not specialists – it’s expensive!), Give them a part-time job in the form of teaching programming. They get additional training opportunities and practical work experience. The age difference between children and mentors is small, therefore more confidence, “explains Virtonen.

Just six months after the start of the first classes, Vladislav Virtonen, together with OÜ EDUKOHT, went to final of the competition for the best young entrepreneurs Europe is under 20 “20 Under 20” chaired by TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus.

“EDUKOHT is attracting computer science students as teachers, and this is an interesting new perspective. Their commitment to improve the situation in remote regions and small towns is admirable,” commented the start-up jury member of this year’s competition, vice-president of the European Association of Small and medium-sized business, MEP Eva Madell.

Informal learning

Education at EDUKOHT is paid (5 euros per hour of class, approximately 50-60 euros per month) and project-oriented (students acquire knowledge and skills by working in a team on a project, solving a specific problem or task).

According to Vladislav Virtonen, mentors teach programming informally, so that classes do not resemble the usual lessons at school.

“We program once a week, 2.5 hours in groups of up to 12 people. From scratch, first the visual language Scratch – we understand the logic and the basics, then web development – HTML, CSS, JavaScript,” Virtonen continues.

Classes at EDUKOHT are held in a free, informal atmosphere A photo: educated

There is also an online community EDUKOHT on the Discord platform, where children teach each other through live broadcasts on information technology topics and communicate with mentors.

“In programming, it is important not to be afraid to make mistakes, to be able to communicate with other people, to look for answers to questions on our own. That is why we teach not only to write code, but also the so-called soft skills – interpersonal communication and team interaction skills,” says the young entrepreneur …

Help local youth

“We are supported by local organizations: Narva College of the University of Tartu, VitaTiim NGO, OBJEKT multimedia hub in Narva and Slavyanskaya Basic School in Kohtla-Järve. Our main sponsor is Startup Estonia (state startup support project – ed.), But we get the main income from fees for programming courses, “says Vladislav Virtonen. – “If we have at least 50 people in one city, then we already go to zero there.”

Theoretically, the EDUKOHT project could be partially financed by some city government, for example, Narva, and then classes for local schoolchildren could be made publicly available, says Virtonen.

“The city financially supports traditional circles (dance, art, sports, etc.) and is not yet considering supporting more modern areas, such as IT. We have to charge tuition fees. Because of this, we are not available for all children”, – he complains.

EDUKOHT programming courses involve teamwork on a project A photo: educated

As an experiment, at the invitation of the Narva creative hub OBJEKT, mentors from EDUKOHT held one free lesson on the basics of programming for adults in Narva this summer. In order to recruit a group, it took only one (!) Announcement on the Facebook page.

This suggests that in Ida-Virumaa today there is a huge demand not only for programming courses for schoolchildren, says Virtonen. Another thing is that there are not enough mentors (and there are 13 of them today) even for classes with children.

By trial and error

According to Virtonen, the founders of Edukoht had little experience in teaching or entrepreneurship, and therefore they have to master everything in the course of classes, by trial and error.

It soon became clear that the most costly and unpleasant mistakes are those with financial and tax reporting, and therefore it was decided to involve professionals in the accounting department.

“We are very different, but we are united by entrepreneurial spirit – we see the problem and immediately solve it together. We are united not only by business, but also by long-standing friendship. Yes, we sometimes conflict. But we value conflicts and are not afraid of them, we can express our opinion to each other. openly and immediately, “says the schoolboy about his business colleagues.

We are in touch with each other around the clock, seven days a week. We live it

According to him, collegial decisions are made not only on current issues, but also to develop a strategy for further development. Meetings are usually held online, and are scheduled immediately whenever a problem arises.

“Each of us is responsible for a certain area: Siimon Härm – for training, Mikhail Belov – for advertising, I – for contracts and external relations, Georgy Sokolov is now developing courses in the online environment. We are in touch with each other around the clock, seven days a week. We live by this “, – explains Vladislav.

Growth problems

“Doing something without concrete benefit for society is not for me. Money, wealth, and popularity are only tools for achieving mission and goals. And our goal is to help all local youth learn in the IT field,” Vladislav says.

According to Vladislav Virtonen, if a kind investor was suddenly found ready to invest in the project, “we would probably get together and go to prepare a risky plan for a blitz expansion. But first of all, we would try to understand how the investor’s goals coincide with ours.”

Rather, a social enterprise today needs not only and not so much additional investment, but also competent and committed young employees who can teach the basics of programming to students of all ages.

At the moment, according to Vladislav, all the modest profit that the Narva startup gets from programming courses is fully reinvested in training new mentors. “To do this, we regularly invite professional mentors in a variety of fields – from psychologists to a team management specialist,” says the 12th grader.


Source: https://www.dv.ee/ by www.dv.ee.

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