As science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields stand at the forefront of innovation and as technological changes reshape the world of work, these professionals are consistently in demand. Evolving ourselves and our society for the better through technology will require a far more diverse talent pool in science and engineering fields and that journey starts with the youth.
In Kenya, several strides are being made in this sector. The Young Scientists Kenya (YSK) has partnered with The Ministry of Education, The Embassy of Ireland and BLAZE by Safaricom to hold the inaugural National Science and Technology Exhibition.
The exhibition, which will be held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre on 5th and 6th July 2018, targets high school students with the aim of encouraging greater uptake of technology and science subjects under the theme: Making STEM Education Accessible To All.
About 5,000 people are expected to attend the event, including 160 student exhibitors from 80 schools in 10 counties.
“I’m honoured to witness the expansion of the Young Scientists programme beyond Ireland to Kenya. Since its launch in Nairobi in July 2017, we have seen tremendous interest in it from students and their teachers, with the high school outreaches that have been taking place over the last few months birthing a well of ideas and future innovators that we expect to see at the conference,” said Prof. John Tony Scott, Young Scientists and Technology Exhibitions Co-Founder.
Young Scientists Kenya (YSK) is an exciting project that provides a platform for young secondary school students in Kenya to come together to investigate theories, discover new technologies and advance current knowledge through research and innovation.
YSK hopes to tap into the wealth of talent in secondary schools by popularizing science and technology through avenues such as the National Exhibition, with the aim of spurring innovation that seeks to provide sustainable solutions to societal challenges.
These efforts complement those of The Ministry of Education, which has for the last 53 years coordinated the only science co-curriculum activity for Kenyan schools – the Secondary Schools Science Congress, now known as the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair (KSEF).
“Kenya is already recognised as a centre of innovation in Africa, and this initiative by YSK, BLAZE and other partners will undoubtedly play a significant role in grooming the next generation of innovators. I am glad to see the private and public sectors coming together to support the Government’s efforts in popularizing STEM courses, efforts which include setting up two STEM model schools in each of the 47 counties,” said Dr. Amina Mohammed, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Education.
YSK hopes to ride on the popularity of Safaricom’s youth network, BLAZE, to appeal to high school students and popularize STEM courses among this demographic.
“The National Exhibition will be powered by BLAZE, through a partnership with YSK that will help us achieve our vision of empowering youth by passions. We want to help change the perception that science, technology, engineering and math are tough, and make them more appealing to a generation that is benefitting greatly from mobile phones and the Internet, both of which are creations of science and technology,” said Charles Wanjohi, Head of Segments – Safaricom.
YSK will advance the learning of science in secondary schools by providing key links between them and tertiary level institutions.
The schools will build on their participation in the National Science and Technology Exhibition to create formal links with the BT-Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE), which has been held in Ireland for the last 55 years.
“BTYSTE has contributed greatly to the uptake of science in secondary schools and the quality of its teaching in Ireland. It has also increased the uptake of STEM courses and helped attract foreign direct investment to Ireland. Going by the output we have seen so far from Kenyan students who have been part of the programme, I believe YSK will have a similar impact in Kenya and immensely contribute to the realization of Vision 2030,” said Dr. Vincent O’Neill, Irish Ambassador to Kenya.
The winners of the competition will be invited to engage with interested private sector companies and participate in international science and technology events.
Other partners in this initiative include: The French Embassy, Institute of Physics (Ireland), Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA), The National Commission for Science Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI), and Strathmore University among others.
YSK is inviting more partners to come on board in order to widen the initiative’s reach ahead of the national roll-out later this year.