UNESCO/IGIFTED Build Capacity of Female Students in STEM

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Funmi Ogundare

It was excitement all the way for 44 brilliant female students from federal government colleges across the six geo-political zones and the southwest state schools; and private schools in the country as they recently received medals for their efforts during the UNESCO/IAGIFTED STEM Camp for gifted girls held at the University of Lagos.

For two weeks, they underwent training in mental maths; Olympiad subjects (mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology); Use of UNESCO Micro Science/Maths Kits; ICT (coding/app development; STEM Energy); and a competition on academic test, dance, musical chair competition, among others.

The aim of the capacity building Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) camp tagged #Girl Crack the Code, was to boost the competence, confidence and courage of the girls to take up careers in the physical sciences.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, some of the participants, who received medals, said they have been empowered to think outside the box and do things they may not be able to achieve.

For Miss Mirabel Asi from Federal Government College, Owerri, who won a medal in oral mental maths, described the camp as very educative, interesting and quite exploring, saying that she learnt how to use the Abacus, MS Word, PowerPoint Excel, as well as being proficient in maths.

Miss Tamunoemi Faye-Harry from Deeper Life High School, Lagos, who got medals in oral mental maths and AMC 10, said she learnt to handle things under pressure and believe in herself.

“I was taught how to use the Abacus, rubicle and think outside the box. The training has been worthwhile because I have learnt a lot of things that I would not have been able to achieve before now.”
She advised girls not to allow themselves to be relegated to the background, but to achieve what they can to be great.

The founder of IGIFTED, and former Director-General of the National Mathematical Centre (NMC) Abuja, Professor Adewale Solarin told journalists that the performance of the students was impressive, saying that all the objectives set out were achieved.

“For instance, the girl that got a gold medal at the evaluation test that we conducted was able to score higher in the individual test than what they did together at group level. The highest score was 16 out of 25, now the best score was 18 out of 25 which is more than 70 per cent and that means if they participate in this competition next year, and the American Maths Competition (AMC) it shows that virtually all of them will be able to score more than 100 over 150, which is the international benchmark.”

Reacting to the view that the girl-child seems to be relegated to the background, the Professor of Algebra said, “I have been in the university system for 43 years and from my experience and I have interacted with boys and girls, though the intelligence level is 50:50, the challenge is that most of the time, the girl-child doesn’t have that fighting spirit to compete which is what we are trying to do by building their competence, confidence and courage to pull through in any situation and circumstance.”

Solarin expressed excitement about the girls’ attitude to the programme, saying that there were a lot of changes in their response compared to when they first came in, and they were no longer timid and, “that was why we asked their teachers to be around because we want them to continue with them.”
He expressed hope that when the girls get back to school, they will be able to identify 10 other girls that they can disseminate what they have learnt to.

“And that is why they are going with the maths kits, memory card containing information and the software that will make the programme work, so we expect that by second term, there will be an additional 10 girls.”
The Principal Consultant, Lonadek, Dr. Ibilola Amao described the programme as a historic first and a huge opportunity for UNILAG to collaborate with UNESCO and various social impact initiatives that are passionate about CSR, youth empowerment and girls in STEM.

“It is very encouraging to see that we are now committed as a nation to encourage girls to go into STEM because a nation that does not develop its girls especially in such fields, stands to lose a lot.”
She advised parents to encourage their girls to be the best they could in bringing out their talents in STEM.