Enhance initiatives that promote sciences in schools

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020 00:00 |
Kenya Vision 2030. Photo/Courtesy

Cynthia Kantai  

The development and application of science, technology and innovation is crucial to the success of national development policies and programmes such as the Kenya Vision 2030 and its successive medium-term plans. 

Economic, social and cultural development goes hand in hand with scientific and technological transformation.

Yet, in Kenya the growth of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in education and training institutions has not been rapid enough to support the innovation sector. 

As per the National Education Sector Strategic Plan for 2018-2022, universities in Kenya have shifted focus from STEM-based courses to non-science related fields. 

Secondly, universities do not have enough qualified faculty with the capacity to teach STEM programmes. 

The cost of delivering STEM programmes is also higher than that associated with delivering social science courses because of the need to invest in expensive equipment. 

Stakeholders in the education sector must begin to take urgent and decisive actions to encourage the uptake of STEM subjects from an early age by showing students their significance and career prospects. 

With lessons from industrial and tech giants such as China, different sectors are now realigning themselves to emerging global trends and are likely to increase job opportunities offers to STEM students. 

The challenge now is for us to inspire students from a young age to pursue science subjects with a sound purpose to reduce skill shortages in the future and help Kenya realise a sustainable economy. 

It is encouraging to see that Biology, Chemistry and Physics recorded the best performance in the 2019 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams. This is a good start and stakeholders in the technology space are increasingly taking a leading role in the promotion of STEM education in Africa. 

At Interswitch, we have taken up the challenge by unveiling InterswitchSPAK competition, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, which gives secondary schools in Kenya’s 47 counties a chance to nominate their best six Form Three STEM students for the competition.

The competition, launched in April last year, is open to students in both public and private secondary schools with a special interest in the STEM subjects. 

The competition culminates with the winner receiving a scholarship worth Sh1.5 million, a laptop, signage for their school while the 1st and 2nd runners up will get Sh750,000 and Sh150,000 respectively and a laptop. 

The level of interest in the competition is encouraging. Overall, 1,356 students from across the country registered for the competition with secondary schools in the Rift Valley region registering the highest number of students at 372, followed by Nyanza (353), Central (213), Western (162), Eastern (139), Nairobi (139), Coast (114) and North Eastern (six). 

These are not just the future scientists but the future of our thriving business community who will solve problems and sustain businesses that will grow the economy.

We are excited about the immense interest such incentives help to generate among teachers and students. Additionally, students derive maximum benefit from participation and meeting their counterparts from other countries. 

This year, we aim to make the competition even bigger and it is our hope that more partners can join in the effort to grow its scale and reach. — The writer is the regional head Marketing & Corporate Communications, Interswitch East Africa (K) Ltd

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