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Accelerating Sustainable Development in Africa through STEAM
In line with its commitment to accelerate sustainable development in Africa and beyond, Sahara Foundation is inspiring a young generation of African changemakers to tackle prevalent challenges within their communities by identifying novel approaches and developing innovative solutions to address local problems. Chiemelie Ezeobi reports that through their STEAMers “Catch Them Young and Curious” initiative, 150 junior and senior secondary school students in Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda are creating value for society
For Sahara Group, its commitment to enabling growth for all is all encompassing given that beyond business, it has touched and continues to touch countless lives by placing premium on human resource, all targeted at empowering the society and leaving it better than they met it.
Through its Sahara Foundation, the group has gone from identifying valuable partnerships that supports innovation across Africa to improving access to quality education as a viable means to achieving sustainable communities.
Undoubtedly, Sahara Foundation is committed to accelerating sustainable development in Africa and beyond.
Catch Them Young Initiative
In accelerating sustainable development, one of the vehicles for this is targeted at teenagers and youths.
This position has been adopted by The Sahara Group through its foundation- Sahara Foundation in creating its STEAMers “Catch Them Young and Curious”.
This initiative is a Science Technology Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM) educational program designed by Sahara Foundation in partnership with STEMCafe to create an opportunity for young people to access a deep dive learning experience, get immersed in a practical classroom and have access to world-class maker labs leading them on the journey to becoming technical problem solvers.
Already, the initiative is raising 150 student participants with creative confidence, a deep understanding of embedded systems, additive manufacturing, and practical experience in using human-centred design in creating sustainable solutions to business and social problems.
According to the foundation, “This program is inspiring a young generation of African changemakers to tackle prevalent challenges within their communities by identifying novel approaches and developing innovative solutions to address local problems.”
Giving a breakdown of the modalities involved, the foundation disclosed that
“Sahara STEAMers is targeted at junior and senior secondary school students and is currently running with 150 participating students in Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda. Each country has two participating public schools, with each national school accounting for a total number of 25 students.
“The academic year long Sahara STEAMers program comprises weekly multiple in-class sessions where students had the opportunity to engage with expert facilitators from STEMCafe and work with Sahara volunteers as they were introduced to concepts and systems that facilitated their basic understanding of physical computing with Arduino and additive manufacturing.
“Through practical hands-on learning experience, they learnt about the various circuit components (sensors, actuators, etc) and functions with simulations and hands-on interactions with concepts of circuitry and physical computing.
“In addition to the Additive Manufacturing, the programme took the fellows through different modules to explore Computer-Aided Design (CAD), 3D modelling, printing & lots more.
“After which, participants advanced to the ideation and prototyping phase where they are grouped to present a project that solves a problem they have identified in their community. The students also engaged in vision boarding sessions where they learnt about the benefit of vision setting accompanied with goal setting and action steps to actualisation of their dreams.
“This year’s program will end with national and regional Demonstration Day events. The national Demo Day event will take place at STEMCafe’s Makers Spaces in Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda. Each group will present their project ideas before a panel of judges and the winning groups from the three countries will go on to compete in a regional Demo Day Finale where an overall group will emerge as regional champion.”
For Sahara’s Managing Director, Emmanuel Magani, their motive is simple- to catch them young. In an interview with THISDAY at StemCafe Makers Space in Lagos, he said: “As we know, technical education is key for the development of any country. Sahara is an energy company so we are entirely in oil and gas, infrastructure, and power and our responsibility is to bring energy to life and you can’t do that without a great technical education.
“So for us, STEAM is a way of reaching out and catching them young by getting the interest of young people on the right opportunity to be interested in this key sector that is transformational to the world today.
“We all know how tech is at the core of everything that happens. It’s what’s driving the global revolution and Sahara wants to be a part of that by supporting young talents, getting the opportunity to get on that track.”
On how sustainable the project, he said:
” Sahara as a business has been here for 26 years so as a business you can see we have longevity and in anything we choose, once we evaluate and deem it to be creating value for the society we are willing to support.”
On possible partnerships with other professionals he said: “This is a partnership. As you know, we partnered with STEMCafe to bring this program idea to life. STEMCafe has expertise in creating non-linear curriculums that offer kids and young adults the opportunity to learn STEM and apply that knowledge towards solving problems in our society. This shared commitment has led to a beautiful partnership that is today creating impact in the lives of African students.”
Giving a run down on how the initiative kicked off, Executive Director, Sahara Foundation, Pearl Uzokwe said: “This Sahara Group programme came about with what I’ll call a new phase of our journey at the Sahara Foundation.
“We decided that we wanted to revise the Sahara Foundation’s focus areas and this happened in 2019 just before the lockdown which is part of our sustainability strategy that we are going to carry out activities in the same area as our core business area.
“As you know the Sahara Group is an energy company. We decided that we know what our impact on various parts of the ESG framework are and as a result we are going to carryout initiatives to promote access to energy or improve access to energy or anything that is going to promote sustainable environment and as you can imagine this areas it became very obvious to us that one way to improve the quality and content that we get in this place is to work on the pipeline and the pool of people that will work in this fields.
“Of course you can’t talk about working in this field without talking about the STEAM or subjects in science and technology engineering down to math.
“We then started ideating around what we wanted to do, we knew that we wanted to work with children that are quite young. We wanted to get them before society told what they were not and that was very important to us.
“If you look at our program, it’s not just called STEM, it’s a STEAM program because the art was very important to us.
“…So we decided to work with StemCafe who have fantastic mega spaces across not just Lagos but also in Uganda and Kenya where we also have offices. We are working with 150 children across these three countries over the course of the entire school year.
“This program started last year because we always do this per academic year and this is coming to an end. This event is called the National Demo Day- the beautiful thing is we are then going to have a regional Demo day. So the finalist from Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya will then come head to head but we wanted to ensure that the impact was sustained.
We wanted to basically raise a generation of innovative thinkers.”
On sustainability, she said the goal is to keep expanding the initiative given that Sahara has offices in 18 countries. With this expansion, she said they will build an army in the sense of children who have creative solutions in this world of STEAM and can go further than one can ever imagine.