Worried by the apathy of female students to the sciences and the attendant low representation of females in the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, the Christopher Kolade Foundation’s (CKF) Stemma Hands-on Empowerment (SHE) Initiative took it upon itself to groom female students in Lagos public secondary schools so as to rekindle their interest in science and technology.
As part of the initiative, the organisation organises series of activities like experiential, hands-on and fun science, technology, ethics and personal development education in school clubs; student to student mentoring; science fairs; summer learning, among others.
The foundation recently organised the SHE 2017 Science and Technology Fair aimed at exhibiting various technology projects executed by the participants of the initiative.
In her remarks, the Chairman CKF Board of Trustees, Mrs. Beatrice Kolade, said the foundation launched the initiative to bridge the gap that since STEM students are predominantly males and insufficient attention is being paid to girls’ participation in different areas of learning, including science and technology.
She said the foundation targets female students in public schools because they are the ones that are more at risk of the discrimination, adding that there is evidence that well designed and implemented informal girl-focussed STEM programmes can offer rich and engaging experiences that result in short-term impacts, as well as longer-term influences on women’s future choices in education, careers, leisure pursuits and ways of thinking about what science is and who does it.
The initiative seems to have paid off in the lives of the girls going by the testimonies of some of them. According to Adeola Adebero, “I learnt that electronics is fun and not meant for grownups and males only.” Aminat Iliasu said, “I have more knowledge of electronic components and how to connect circuits.” According to Mariam Olayemi, “I no longer have low self-esteem and I am confident.” For Eneh Abah “I am a goal setter, a dream chaser, a problem solver and in the near future, a great woman.”
Some of the projects on display were ‘Smart Digital Wireless Medical Assistant’ by Life Savers Team; ‘Automatic Water Tap’ by Team Dynamic; ‘Sky Cruise’ by Team Diamond; ‘Space Fighter’ by Team Emerald, among others.
In her keynote address titled ‘Building an Inclusive and Competitive 21st Century Workforce: the Girl-child Challenge’, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Oluranti Adebule, noted that it is a challenge for women, especially in a developing economy such as Nigeria to compete with the men folks in the 21st century work environment where science, technology, engineering and ICT are the backbones.
“However with active corporate and private citizens’ partnership with government, we can turn the challenges to opportunities.”
She stressed the need to continually change education curriculum and infrastructure to meet contemporary and future needs in this 21st century, especially with the advent of digital technology, the internet, mobile telephone and most recently robotics and artificial intelligence.
She added that the world gradually shrank to a global round-table and if Nigeria must function on that table, the country must embrace inclusive science, technology, ICT and innovative education to enhance the aptitude of Nigerian, irrespective of gender to compete globally.
The deputy governor, who also oversees the education ministry stressed that the economic forecast in just a few science, technology and innovative sectors reveal staggering numbers, adding that estimates have shown that the value of climate change and clean technology sectors in the next decade amounts to $64 trillion, while the value of the digital economy in the G20 countries alone is $4.2 trillion.
“There is a huge opportunity gap in digitally skilled workers, amounting to 200 million workers (which women can fill given the opportunity), with estimates showing that up to 90 per cent of formal sector jobs will require ICT skills. 2.5 million engineers and technicians will be needed in sub-Saharan Africa alone to achieve improved access to clean water and sanitation.
“The ability of women to access, benefit from, develop and influence these sectors will directly impact whether we achieve our goals of Planet 50:50 by the year 2030. If women are left out of these 21st century revolutions, we will not achieve substantive gender equality,” she said.
The SHE Initiative is a science and technology immersion programme designed to offer girls from low and middle-income families a unique opportunity to experience science and technology in relatable, interactive and fun ways.
The programme is designed to stir participants’ curiosity and interest in exploring the world of science and technology, change the stereotypes around girls and science, equip participants with life-long skills in the realms of science and technology, while also offering personal development, leadership and ethics education.