We live in an age where science, technology, engineering and math surround us – they are an integral part of everyday life.
Inventions that once seemed futuristic are now our reality, from the cell phones we use to the internet, to the way we move and even the food we eat, we cannot separate ourselves from STEM and its place in the world. modern world.
In Africa, Kenya has been at the forefront of technology and innovation, with world firsts such as Safaricom’s M-PESA, which revolutionized financial services and accelerated financial inclusion. But now is the time for us to do more with the resources at our disposal, it is time for us to take bolder steps to lay the foundation for us to create our own innovations, solve our own challenges, and maybe even those from the rest of the world.
A great resource for realizing this ambition are our young people, who, with the right motivation and support, have the potential to use STEM to significantly contribute to the growth of our economy.
It is this vision that prompted a group of science teachers from the Dagoretti community in Nairobi County to come up with an initiative to change the perception that science is difficult and complex. The teachers, led by Mr. David Olwanda, professor of biology and chemistry at the Riruta Satellite Education Center, organized the “Dagoretti Scientific Open Day” to ensure that students in community schools, many of whom come from low-income families, have equal access to scientific equipment, information and opportunities.
The first ‘Dagoretti Science Open Day’ recently took place at the Riruta Satellite Education Center, bringing together students from five primary and three secondary schools in the region to interact with mentors from different science fields. Sessions covered agriculture, waste management and renewable energy, coding, manufacturing, veterinary science, robotics and artificial intelligence.
At the open house, the students spent time with the mentors, nicknamed “Science Inspirers” from various STEM-focused fields and gained hands-on learning and understood that STEM is cool and everyone is doing a job. form of science all the time whether they realize it or not. There were interesting demonstrations and presentations by scientific inspirers from Flexi Biogas, GearBox, TME Education, Global Minimum and Fun and Education Global Network. The students also had one-on-one sessions with veterinarians Elijah Langat and Dr Diana Onyango.
Storytelling is a proven way to impart knowledge. As such, the Science Inspirators also shared their experiences, from personal and financial challenges growing up, to tips and learning tools, encouraging students to know that they too can be successful in science.
Students were also exposed to a wide range of STEM applications, starting with basic science concepts using objects found around the home such as baking powder, to more complex uses such as science in manufacturing through l engineering, artificial intelligence and software, with demonstrations of 3-D printing and a robotic arm at work. Students also studied motherboards and gained an understanding of their uses in machines.
To showcase the agricultural and environmental applications of STEM, a simulation that monitors illegal logging in a forest demonstrated AI at work in a real and relevant way, while a bio-digester demonstrated that it is not. no need to cut trees for domestic fuel. The students also discovered that science can be used to identify an animal’s allergies and that the way an animal walks can be a sign of illness.
Events such as Dagoretti’s Open Science Day help bridge the access gap, which arose out of financial constraints that prevent many students from accessing this knowledge in public schools. Due to the low fees paid by students, it is a challenge for many schools in the community to have well-equipped science labs, let alone access high-level science equipment and tools such as robotics.
According to Olwanda, many students are unaware of the wide range of careers and hobbies that exist in science. Additionally, many students do not believe they can be successful in science and feel it is too difficult, hence the need for events such as the Open House to demystify these beliefs.
Fortunately, many organizations recognize the role they can play in advocating for STEM by supporting education and mentoring programs. Safaricom PLC, which has consistently supported youth empowerment through its BLAZE platform and partnering with Young Scientists Kenya to promote STEM adoption, was the main sponsor of the open house, while Coca-Cola provided refreshments for students.
To ensure that the gains made are sustainable, Mr Olwanda and his team plan to reach out to science teachers from other communities with the aim of organizing science open houses in various communities in Nairobi County and, possibly, at national scale. The team believe that there are many opportunities for students through science, and it is important to reach as many students as possible and expose them to science in a new and exciting way.