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Nine-year-old Kenyan boy teaching computer hacks

 Elvis Muchiri, 9-year-old who teaches computer hacks on Tiktok. [Dennis Kibuchi, Standard]

In Sunday School, I overhear an unusual conversation between two nine-year-olds. “Do you know what Windows E does?” One of them asks, then goes on to explain. I am interested but cannot quite make out the response, so I decide I will ask the child later on.

The Sunday School teacher had just told them that everyone has unique gifts then went around asking every child what their gift is, and that child had said, without hesitating, “computers”, which is what sparked the conversation I had just eavesdropped on.

The nine-year-old doing the explaining is Elvis Njagi Muchiri, and he is, indeed, gifted in computers.

He is wearing his merchandise, a hoodie with his picture and the name of his channel on it, ‘Evolve with Elvis’. He started his TikTok channel three months ago and already has 130,000 followers, and his Youtube channel, which he started a month ago, already has 8,000 subscribers.

He teaches computer shortcuts on his channel together with his sister Megan, who just turned four years last month. Back home, at his production setup, I get to learn exactly how the magic happens.

Megan takes her very important role as introducer very seriously, and her endearing, “Hi guys, welcome back to Evolve with Elvis!” has won hearts around the world. Once that is done, Elvis responds with the now familiar, “Thanks Megan for the good introduction,” then begins.

“The code to the square root is Alt plus 2 5 1.” And a square root appears on the screen.

“Let us do Alt 1 7 2,”  – and the fraction, ¼, appears on the screen.

He is doing all these things on a Word document, all of which I had never thought of and did not know was possible, like people say, “at my big age”.  Neither did a lot of people who are now finding his tips incredibly helpful.

“I am learning a lot from a Kenyan nine-year-old named Elvis who teaches keyboard shortcuts on TikTok with his sister Megan,” reads one tweet with 106,000 likes by @anniierau.

Our interview, which goes live on their TikTok channel with no prior notice for the viewers, during off-peak times, garners 19,000 viewers. It is incredible to witness and I am curious as to how all this began.

“I first started when I was a child,” says Elvis, and I tease him about still being a child. “Okay when I was young, I used to work with my father on his laptop, and then he ended up getting me a desktop,” he says.

His father, Francis Muchiri, says Elvis had always been curious about computers since he was a toddler.

“When he was younger, I was working from home and I would have a lot of trouble trying to manage him on my laptop. Even at two years old he would open the computer, go to the folder where the cartoons were and start playing the cartoons. He would do crazy things,” says Muchiri.

“I remember once I was doing transcription jobs, then there was one particular conversation which was too fast. And then while playing with the computer, he pressed a certain button miraculously and I was like, ‘What just happened?’ The audio slowed down and I looked at what he had pressed and realised that was what I had been looking for. It was he who made me discover that when you press that button you could slow down the audio.”

Later on, Elvis would badger him about starting a YouTube channel. His favourite content creator is Mr Beast, and, inspired by such people and his interest in computers, he wanted to start his channel.

His parents were hesitant as they did not want him exposed to the internet while so young, so they kept turning him down.

They own a shop, and one of his customers, Ben Makau, is a producer, cameraman and photographer, and when Elvis realised this, he turned his attention towards him as well.

“Because we know the work he does, he also used to pressure him. ‘I want to open a channel. Don’t you do camerawork?’ But I used to tell the producer to let it go, that he was just a child who sees a lot of things out there and he can be very stubborn,” says Muchiri.

Elvis was relentless. Ben, now Elvis’ producer, explains how they eventually gave in.

 From left ro right, Francis Muchiri, Megan Wambura and Elvis Njagi. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

“When we gave in, there was this particular day I was transporting a computer. He is very inquisitive, so he started asking me questions like, ‘You know what, I can even help you repair it.’ To stop that back and forth, I told him, ‘Fine, I will come tomorrow and we shall repair it together’”, says Ben.

That was a big (but good) mistake, as Elvis spent the rest of the weekend pressuring his father about it, until Muchiri called Ben about it, wondering what they would do.

“We already knew that he was passionate about computers but we did not know where to start,” says Ben.

“Remember we were doing this so that we could stop him from nagging because it had become problematic. At one point when I wanted to buy something sometimes I would even go to another shop because I had a case to answer in this one! So we started the channel on March 27. It was meant to stop the nagging but that just made it worse.”

Elvis was hooked. He explains that his father came up with the name ‘Evolve.’

“Then I came up with the idea of ‘with Elvis’. So it became Evolve with Elvis,” says Elvis.

They made an error in the name, writing it as ‘Evolve’, but you have to wait a month to change the name on TikTok. When they tried to do it, the audience was in an uproar and said they preferred the first name, it was more unique.

“It was a beautiful mistake,” says Ben.

It could also have been Evolve with Elvo but Elvis preferred his name in full, so it stayed. Muchiri says that in that first week, they decided that if they got 1,000 followers in one month it would be good.

“But shock on us,” he says. Elvis’ third video would be about flipping windows, but none of them anticipated it would also flip their world around.

“When the third video went up, we hit 70,000 followers in 12 hours. When we started, he was doing it alone. There was nothing special about the third video other than the fact that there was a visitor called Megan. She was the game-changer. It hit 2 million views in 12 hours on Easter Sunday,” says Ben.

Elvis’ father, Muchiri, calls the video magical, still uncertain how exactly it happened. The video did not pick up the day it was uploaded. It had been up for four days before it suddenly went viral.

“We made it, then we forgot about it. It was on Easter Sunday and I started seeing a lot of traffic on TikTok. In a minute I was getting like 1,000 followers and I was asking myself what was happening. I called Ben and he had switched off his phone. I told him to go and see what was happening on TikTok,” says Muchiri.

The producer, Ben, explains that the video continues to do its magic, as two weeks ago, three months after it went up, the video suddenly shot up from 2.9 to 3.9 million views in a few hours.

He now has a team of producers, a manager (his dad), introducer (Megan) and they joke that Elvis is their employer.

“Now it is no longer to quiet Elvis. It is serious business. That is how the team was formed. We had to have a serious discussion. We had an audience that needed a video every two days,” says Makau.

His audience is very supportive and they donated $600 (Sh84,720) to buy him a new computer since he was using an old computer that ran on the now-outdated Windows 7. They shoot around five videos at a go, uploading three to five per week. Initially, it took them three hours to shoot, but they have whittled it down to one and a half hours. Ben explains that each 30-second video takes four hours to edit, and has to be done in three takes - where Elvis is speaking, recording what is happening on the screen and recording the keyboard.

Elvis will also start teaching coding, how to make an app, which he is learning, and will move on to artificial intelligence. He has partnered with Virtual Learning Solutions (VLS), a global Microsoft Education training partner, to learn coding.

After our interview, he spent the better part of the day with VLS Executive Director Ann Wanjiru, who took him through a 12-step coding process through solving fun puzzles using Minecraft and was awarded a certificate of completion. What is the best part about all this for Elvis? “I get to learn some new things about the computer and people always say that I am awesome, I teach them new things. They make me feel happy,” he says.

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