As Nigeria matches towards the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), the director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, has underscored the need for new strategy and innovative approaches to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
He gave the advice at the closing ceremony of the two weeks STEM Bootcamp for Kids (SB4Kids) program organized by the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR), the arm of NITDA meant to drive R&D and innovation in the areas of emerging technologies.
Abdullahi lamented that the quality of education, especially science, technology, engineering and mathematics, was deteriorating in Nigeria, as was evident from the recent performance of students in major national examinations, stressing the need to approach STEM in innovative ways, such as the introduction of Artificial intelligence (AI), Robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other emerging technologies into our educational system.
He explained that the bootcamp was part of NITDA’s effort towards implementing the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), particularly the NDEPS’s pillar – Digital Literacy and Skills.
“One of the focus areas of NCAIR is capacity building. NCAIR capacity building initiatives are meant to facilitate the creation and adoption of emerging technologies in all facets of Nigerian lives. As an NCAIR’s catch-them-young initiative, the SB4KIDS is a bootcamp to inspire young Nigerians in STEM. Through the SB4Kids, NCAIR engages youngsters between the age of 8 and 16 years in an immersive and well-articulated bootcamp meant to coach and inspire them to imbibe STEM passion and create an early interest in digital and emerging technologies, which will hopefully shape their future careers in these fields. NITDA SB4Kids is a yearly initiative, normally conducted during the summer school holidays.
“This year, the SB4KIDS was conducted between August 23 and September 3, in two batches. The first batch engaged youngsters between the ages of 8 and 11 years, while the second batch was for youngsters between the ages of 12 and 16 years.
“Over the two weeks, they were immersed in various activities, thereby learning various technologies and skills ranging from Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Drones, Coding, Virtual Reality (VR), 3D printing, and digital communication, where participants were trained on how to tell their stories digitally using video and audio, including adding digital effects to their creations to make them more interesting and impacting,” he said.
This year, NITDA SB4KIDS has trained almost 200 participants, comprising 96 junior kids and 82 senior kids, he said, adding during the entire program, all participants were provided meals for lunch, writing materials and all necessary care to ensure they had a very pleasant experience and a fun environment to aid their learning.
He further said skilled NCAIR members took them through various technologies on a journey requiring critical thinking and a high sense of curiosity in the world of science and digital technologies.
“And it is my pleasure to let you know that those of you sitting here today are selected as the best to receive awards and appreciation from NITDA. A rigorous process was put in place to select 20 winners, that is 10 from each batch. The first 3 from each batch will receive a laptop each while all the 20 selected winners will each receive a STEM kit that will help them with their STEM education journeys,” he added.
The NITDA boss urged the participants to continue with the journey towards becoming technology leaders who will steer the country towards prosperity.