Bits schools & Academy

Training youth, building careers


The dynamic and fast growing ICT sector in many emerging economies offers great job opportunities, especially for young people who grow up in the digital age. To encourage youth employment, Butterfly Works set up NairoBits in 1999. This digital design school in Nairobi was the first of many more to come.

Bits schools & Academy

Bits schools train ambitious youth from underprivileged backgrounds in a wide range of disciplines; from programming to visual design, brand development, photography and video making. A strong entrepreneurship and life skills component prepare students for the world of (self-) employment. Internship placements and real-life client assignments from businesses give students more self-esteem. In turn it encourages businesses to rethink their initial prejudice towards people from underprivileged backgrounds. To facilitate exchange between the different Bits schools we developed the digital platform “Bits Academy”. Students can work on their projects, indulge in discussions, assess themselves and build a portfolio to showcase their talents. Trainers can share their courses and resources with each other, keep track of the progress of each student and immediately translate new market trends into new lesson plans.

Project development

Every Bits school is set up through a co-creation process with businesses, community based organisations (CBOs), community leaders, parents and youth. CBOs select students on the basis of their motivation and commitment to the community rather than existing skills. The Bits schools work closely with the private sector to adjust the curriculum to market demand.


Kenya (1999), Ethiopia (2008), Tanzania (2008), Central Uganda (2010), Northern Uganda (2013), Pakistan (2014), Ghana (2015) Nigeria (2016), Somaliland (2016) and Egypt (2016).


European Union, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Terre des Hommes, Oxfam, Learn4work, Forward Foundation, Triodos Foundation, Ceford, IRC, Bibir Ghana, Noblestreet, Tech Support, Frog Design, Ustad Mobile, Flock of Birds and local CBOs, CSOs, businesses and creatives.

Results so far

Throughout the years, Bits schools have together trained over 8,000 young people (45% girls). More than 80% gained employment or started a business themselves. Bits alumni give guest lectures and perform at events such as TEDX and “eLearning Africa”. As such, they inspire new students and set in motion a wider positive change in their communities. Thanks to this success the concept has even been honoured with several internationally recognised awards.


Do you want to know more about how we use our method in the projects? Download our white paper here.

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If you are a company, foundation, design studio or working in the field of youth employability, education or ICT, and you think that the youth around you might benefit from a Bits school please contact us.