Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are drivers of the national development of any country/economy. STEM plays a vital role in development in practically all sectors of the economy, as it is an all-encompassing field.
However, it is general knowledge that students, especially girls, have no interest in taking studies in the line of STEM, a development that has made the field male-dominated.
To spur students, the African University of Science and Technology (AUST), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) conducted a STEM outreach in selected schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and environs to encourage secondary school students, especially young girls, to take up careers in science and engineering.
The benefitting schools are Government Science School (GSS), Tungan Maje; Government Girls Science School (GGSS), Gwagwalada; Government Science School (GSS), Dutse; Government Science School (GSS), Tudun Wada and Federal Government Girls College (FGGC), Bwari.
Speaking during the outreach, the programme coordinator, multi-lateral projects, AUST, Mrs. Victoria Agbo, said the project is to push for more girls to aspire, excel and lead in STEM; not just in academics but in their careers too.
“We want to advocate for more girls to do science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). We have seen, especially in AUST, that we don’t have many female enrollments. Every session brings us more males than females, even though we award scholarships to females to encourage them. Still, we have more boys. This is not peculiar to AUST; the numbers show that we have over 70 per cent of the men doing STEM in academia and in the industry.”
Agbo said the students would be trained in robotics, computer programming, renewable energy, 3D printing, as well as give health tips and effective ways of combating COVID-19.
“Apart from the STEM practicals that we will be demonstrating to the students, we have a session on the health talk about COVID-19. They will also be taught the basics of personal hygiene, menstrual hygiene because apart from preventing COVID-19, these hygiene tips will also help prevent infectious diseases that also affect young people.
“Today, we will introduce them to python programming and they will also have the opportunity to write their first code. For those of them who have never coded before. They will also learn robotics and will be allowed to create commands for a virtual robot, just to give them an understanding of how this works and to whet their appetite to aspire to pick interest in this area. Then will teach them 3D printing and explain the technology to them.
“We will also teach them how solar technology works and give them ideas on how to improve on existing technologies. Innovation does not always mean building something from the scratch; it can also mean improving on existing technologies,” she said.
Speaking to journalists, one of the beneficiaries, Oluwabukola Fanimehin, a senior secondary student of GSS Tudun Wada, expressed delight at the training, while underscoring the role of science in national development.
“When I see them come here and enlighten us on how to become scientists and good people in life, I feel so delighted because we are the leaders of tomorrow and we have to be brought up in a way that will be the best breed for the country so that we can be able to produce a good/better country in the future.
“It is important to study science because science is a key factor in our daily activities. You mustn’t be a scientist to live but you must know science because our day-to-day activities involve science. It is practically a way of life,” she said.
Another student, Bamidele Ronnie, stressed that science is the nexus of development, adding Nigeria cannot achieve its goal of joining the league of developed nations without utilizing and deploying science, technology and innovation (STI) to drive its course.
Speaking exclusively to Science Nigeria, the principal of GSS Tudun Wada, Mr. Akor Joseph, said mentoring of students by STEM practitioners would go a long way in helping mould them into better adults who can contribute to nation-building in the future.
“These are the kind of things we are looking out for, not just coming to school to learn. We need external hands to come and help us in remoulding the lives of our students so they can become better people in future. I know that whatever they learn from here is going to go a long way in helping them.
“Science is important because all over the world I think everything is going towards the direction of technology because without science there will be no technology and technology is the bedrock of development and no place on earth develops without the involvement of science. Developed countries got to their current state by deploying science, technology and innovation. What differentiates them from our world is STI deployment. I believe that making the girls and their male counterparts develop an interest in that direction is a good thing,” he stated.
He further tasked the government to intervene in STEM education by equipping various laboratories in schools nationwide to enable students to be more grounded in STEM by getting hands-on training rather than mere theories that cannot be applied.
“There are so many interventions that government can embark on to encourage students. If you look at what we do, we only come to reproduce the books and the students lack areas of application because the laboratories are not there and, where they exist, they are ill-equipped or obsolete. We need to develop our laboratories and the students have to do be practically involved. These things are no longer restricted to classwork, theories in mathematics, chemistry and physics without the practical,” he added.