STEM 2018 Camp of Excellence in Kenya (c) UNESCO

Enhancing Equal Participation in Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

1,131 students mentored from 1,270 schools in 37 counties during 6 camps. 180 teachers sensitized.

These are the numbers of the UNESCO STEM Education in Kenya. UNESCO Gender in STEM Education is a science programme activity initiated by the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa to support Kenya’s efforts to enhance equal participation in STEM by girls and boys with the aim of reducing the gender gap. The programme targets secondary school girls through mentorship in the context of scientific Camps of Excellence; and is based at the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. The programme is implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Education, the National Commission for Science Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI), and the Kenya National commission for UNESCO (KNATCOM). Other key partners in the programme include the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), Universities, Industries and the private sector such as Safaricom, Microsoft and Airbus Foundation.

Scientific Camps of Excellence

The Scientific Camps of Excellence are organized within the context of UNESCO’s Priority Gender Equality and the Expected Result 2 of the Natural Science sector. The programme was introduced in Kenya in 2014 and aims to mentor secondary school girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The programme aims to close the gender gap in science in Kenya by inspiring girls to embrace science subjects and STEM fields through mentorship talks, laboratory demonstrations, linkages of the science subjects to STEM careers and showing their relevance to the day-to-day life of the students as individuals. The camps also seek to empower girls to think of STEM oriented solutions for the various problems in their country, and emphasize the need for science clubs in schools, to facilitate further mentorship and networking opportunities for the students. The programme further exposes the secondary school students and their teachers to the art of coding and the beauty and fun of science through Robotics.

Key activities

Exposure to role models constitutes one of the main activities of the STEM education programme. Girls are introduced to women scientists and engineers who hold mentorship session with them. The girls also get information on STEM courses offered at the university level, as well as tips on how best to study for examinations, especially in the for science subjects. The students also receive mentorship on life skills and survival techniques to enable them overcome the gender stereotypes.

The second component of the programme is to expose the students to the learning environment in the university context where they have an opportunity to experience laboratory demonstrations in engineering, physical and Applied science courses. This part of the programmes is aimed at helping students to make informed course choices. It also provides them with an opportunity to interact with university students in STEM fields as well as university professors from different STEM fields.

One of the main focus of the programme is to relate science to real life for the students. To achieve this, the students are exposed to the manufacturing and production industries that employ a lot of scientific knowledge. This enables them to see how science comes into play in the manufacturing and food processing activities for the benefit of society.. This third component of the STEM education programme exposes the students to the relevance of the different science subjects that they study in the classroom, to their day-to-day lives and for the sustainable development of their country. Such visits also expose the students to the importance of technology for the future through sessions of telepresence/video conferencing.

Creativity and Innovation - thinking as Scientists and Engineers

The final part of the camp focuses on the ability of the mentored students to be creative and innovative in their way of looking for STEM oriented solutions to address the societal problems experienced around them. The students get the opportunity to come up with project proposals based on their ideas, and present them to the judges. The Kenya National Innovation Agency (KENIA) is part of the judges and encourages schools with the best and most innovative proposals to work on polishing them for possible support.

Tracking the impact

To assess the impact of the STEM Mentorship Programme, the participating schools are requested to track the performance of the mentored students. Some of the mentors/role models are also lecturers at the universities and are expected to assist by monitoring the admissions to see how many of the mentored students are admitted to the different STEM courses and to analyze the admissions trends for indication of an increase in enrollment in STEM for girls. An online tracking tool has been developed to facilitate the tracking process of the performance of the mentored students at different levels of education, with a view to assessing the impact of the UNESCO/GoK STEM education programme in Kenya.

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Watch the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 11 February 2017, 

UNESCO giving more opportunities to women venturing in science

Part I and Part II, by Kenya Television Network, Tech Central 

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