Countries in the developing part of the world have no option than, to embrace STEM, (Science, Technology, Engineering Mathematics), education, if they intend to stand tall, among the comity of developed nations, in decades to come.
The technological advancement of developing countries might have been stalled for years, due to a number, of obvious factors, however, the introduction of all-in-one STEM education, could prove to change the narrative.
In this regard, the field of science has been pretty much dominated, by the male gender, especially, in this part of the globe. Young girls, with tendencies of excelling, in the field of science, have faced brick walls, from the society and their parents.
Some school of thought believes that, the field of science and technology, should not be tilted towards the male gender. The female gender, precisely, the young ones, if given the opportunity, can leave great imprint, in the sand of time.
We caught up with Uchenna Onwuamaegbu-Ugwu, Founder/COO, Edufun Technik Ltd and a leading voice, in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math’s – STEM/Robotics education development.
She took us through her years of experience, in working with young ladies, viz-a-viz, advocating STEM education.
The Lady behind the wheels
Uchenna’s organisation is, a STEM/Robotics Hub. The hub was responsible for designing the STEM-Gender Gap bridging Project that won the Global Gold Award Medal, in the 2018 Technovation World Code and Pitch Challenge, for Girls in Silicon Valley, USA.
She is passionate about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, (STEM), education for Girls, Children and Youths, in the rural areas, in Southern Nigeria, giving them early exposure, to hands-on learning and career development, in STEM/Robotics field, as a way to prepare them, for the Future of Work.
Uchenna has a strong believe that, early introduction of STEM/Robotics education, in last-mile communities, would inspire young girls, to be great thinkers, problem-solvers and make good career decisions that will impact their communities.
Having obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria, she has served, as a social worker, where she ensured that young, mentally challenged girls, have access to education.
She bagged the Mandela Washington Fellow, a prestigious US Government Honor, for Outstanding Young African Leaders and selected, as one of the Inaugural Obama African Leaders, in 2018, by President Barack Obama Foundation.
Uchenna is the current Chairperson, of the Anambra State Youth Advisory Board committee and a member of the Anambra State, 50-Year Development Committee, working on drafting a 50-year development roadmap and advising the State Government on the pathways, to inclusive growth, peace, social justice, democratic leadership growth and inclusive economic prosperity.
She currently runs three projects yearly
Asides from being the Founder/COO of Edufun Technik Limtited | Onitsha NigeriaProvide innovative Science Technology Engineering and Math’s, (STEM), Curriculum-based education for children and youth, in rural/peri-urban communities, in Nigeria.
As a regional mentor for Technovation in Anambra State, Nigeria, she has organized annual competitions, for families and students, in rural communities, through exploration, by challenging them, to discover new ideas and solve unique problems, in their communities. Through this they build a community-based solution Mobile Application and application of Artificial Intelligence, (AI).
Uchenna is an Official partner to Google, on digital skills, to prepare youths for tomorrows job and providing online safety education, in schools, to get students, teachers and parents informed, on how to be safe online.
She is, also, a STEM Ambassador Africa, where she Design STEM/Robotics curriculum, for schools, Makerspaces, after school clubs, using the African context. Introduces Engineering Design Process, (EDP), as a guide to help plan, build and test-run designs. To help build early-learners’ self-confidence and improve on their ability to solve problems.
Milestones on the advocacy
Trained and led the team of Girls that won the 2018 Global World Technovation Challenge for Girls In STEM and Computer Programing/Coding, in Silicon Valley, USA.
Providing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math’s STEM Hands-on Educational services, to Twenty, (20), schools, with about 10,000 students/pupils, in the rural communities and Mentoring girls, to make scientific discoveries and consider STEM Careers, in the future, for societal impact.
As a community psychology Social worker, she has been involved in the Education of mentally challenged young girls, in her community, to ensure that they get enough Education and acquire other skills, to help them become independent.
Trained 5,650 girls in rural communities, on basic Computer Appreciation, Coding, Robotics and Engineering and Career development, in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, (STEM), Education.
Challenges of STEM penetration
According to Uchenna, the challenges start, with the school itself, as most of the students have lived their entire lives, in their community, where the schools are located, but considering other challenges, she identified some of the following:
Consider a situation, where, primary and secondary school students have to, compulsorily, offer between 18 and 14 subjects, respectively, as prescribed by the government. “It becomes a problem for them to accept any other program, not in their curriculum”, Uchenna explained.
Keen in passing external exams
The students are often not shown the need to acquire tools that would equip them for life beyond the classroom. “They spend all their entire education, trying to pass Common Entrance and SSCE, so, you find out that, they don’t have enough skills, to prepare them for good career choices”, she observed.
Most parents have no idea about STEM education, so, one of the ways, which Uchenna is trying to cut this is, to carry out parents awareness programs, from which she has found out that, 70% of them, have no idea, what STEM is all about.
In addition, schools are reluctant to place additional costs, on the students’ fee, as STEM education does not come cheap, however, whenever they attempt adding, it is, usually, at 200% of the average school fee.
In this part of the clime, society has relegated the roles of girls to some certain expectations. Here, girls are not expected to do activities that spells masculinity.
On the other side, the parents have, also, contributed to this, by discouraging their girls, from embracing engineering, while making calls for the medical profession.
In this kind of situation, closing the gap, is proving to be a daunting task, however, she intends to continue to have dialogues with parents.
Lack of mentorship is, another challenge, as there are few ladies, leading the way in STEM, so, these young girls, do not have many role models to look up to, in the field.
What drives STEM in Nigeria?
Uchenna explained that It is a process that would have to commence, from the grassroot, “Awareness to the parents, needs to be intensified. Parents should encourage their girls, to participate in tech competitions and tours, while also, helping them out in their schoolwork.”
A change in government policy is, also, required to favour STEM skills. She stated that, she has engaged in radio campaigns too, to further stress the importance.
The drive for the advocacy
Uchenna stressed that, she is seeing the end, from the beginning and the joy of what will happen, at the end, drives her to do more. The most important thing for her, she stated, is showing up for them and seeing the excitement in them.
Uchenna stated that, she has once suffered the same fate, as a girl growing up, as she had nobody to put her through. Having the knowledge that, because she showed up, would become better.
Concerning attaining 4IR
Uchenna noted that, Nigeria is yet to, even, catch up with the first and second industrial revolution, however, with the internet at our disposal, we might catch up fast, with the 4IR. We will not have to wait for years, as we are aware of the campaign, driving the 4IR.
She believes that, the challenge with attaining the 4IR, still lies on the shoulders of the government, as failure to lead this campaign, may just lag us behind.
Long run benefits of STEM
Uchenna emphasized that, Edufuntech is deliberate, in its intention in pushing the agenda. In the long run, she aspires to have her products and services, in up to 60% schools in Nigeria. Edufuntech’s major aim is, to democratize access, to STEM resources and services.
It will execute a franchise model, getting vulnerable, smart youth employed, to spread the news beyond Nigeria.
Uchenna stated that, the project has moved beyond Anambra State. It has moved to Abakaliki in Ebonyi State and to Enugu and Imo, as well as, Abuja. It will be moving to Lagos soon and Uchenna hopes to get to Kano, before 2020 ends.
Featured Image: Uchenna Onwuamaegbu-Ugwu, Founder/COO, Edufun Technik Ltd
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