Bridging the gap in STEM: Challenging the issues facing young girls in Secondary Schools in Africa

Adanna
Posted April 22, 2015 from Nigeria
InspireIT

Majority of the people in Africa are well aware of technological innovations and how these innovations have impacted on their lives, both positively and negatively. Aside the cultural challenges that many young girls face in Africa, there are still many challenges that young girls in secondary schools in Africa who are interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) face. Some of these challenges include: lack of computers, dilapidated science labs, lack of access to the internet,etc.

I visited one of the Girls Secondary School in South South Zone of Nigeria. I had a discussion one on one with the Principal of the Girls Secondary School about InspireIT (InspireIT is a free mentoring program for young girls and women studying or interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), how I believe that InspireIT could help the young girls in her school especially the ones in senior class 3 (who hopefully will proceed to the University). Most importantly, I reminded her that it was FREE! She interrupted me half way with the following points:

1. If I was aware that most of the young girls in her school were housemaids (a housemaid is girl or woman employed to do housework, especially one who is resident in the household) and as such have little or no time for a mentoring program.

2. Majority of the young girls in her school do not have access to mobile phones and the internet

3. Lack of computers

4. Many school activities (It will not be ‘easy’ to fit me in to discuss with the students)

After listening to the points she made, I made some suggestions:

1. If she could spare at least 10 mins (even if it is during their break time) to enable me speak to the young girls in senior class 3 (since they were my target audience) about the free mentoring program.

2. Speak to the girls during assembly in the morning about InspireIT

3. Organize a forum in the school (in collaboration with their science teachers)where we can speak to the young girls about STEM and the challenges they face since majority of them are housemaids, have no access to mobile phones, computers and the internet.

At the end of our discussion, the principal gave me her phone number and I gave her flyers containing information about InspireIT including letter of consent for the young girls. I promised to give her time to think about it and discuss with her staff.

Challenges

In most countries in Africa such as Nigeria, access to the internet/mobile broadband is a still a big issue. Majority of the students in Secondary Schools cannot use computers but can use their mobile phones. Even when they have mobile phones, most of these students are more interested in using it for social media such as Facebook and chatting to their friends (which is not a bad thing) than for self improvement. Some of these challenges such as lack of computers and access to internet also affect InspireIT because most of the mentees have to pay lots of money either at a cybercafé (including their transport to the cybercafé) or to recharge their mobile phones to be able to access the internet (check emails or use social media) and as such communicating with their mentor is ‘difficult’.

Many secondary school science labs especially in rural parts of Nigeria are not equipped and as such many students only read about science ‘practicals’ in textbooks. Some of the classrooms where these science ‘practicals’ take place are dilapidated.

The cost of mobile broadband in many countries in Africa is still on the high side. According to Dashboard Marketing Intelligence’s Pinpoint, internet usage is highest on mobile by the younger part of Nigeria’s population. Within the 16-17 age group (the group where most girls in senior secondary schools in Nigeria fall) 46% accessed the internet via their mobile phones while the 26-35 year olds are the largest users because most of them are more likely to afford smart phones and data usage. Internet café or Cybercafé appears to be an option for many younger users.

The Big Question

How can more young girls and women in Africa be recruited into the sciences, engineering, mathematics, and technology fields when majority have no access to computers/internet and many still don’t know how to use it?

Proposed Solutions

1. Provide more computers for secondary schools

2. Set up programs for young girls in Africa especially those in secondary schools to promote careers in STEM (InspireIT needs help and collaborators in this area)

3. Teach young girls about the benefits of Mobile Technology

4. Collaborate with science teachers in secondary schools and organize forums/quiz competitions for young girls interested in pursuing a career in STEM

5. Train more teachers in Computer Science

6. Organize workshops/seminars/trainings for science teachers and young girls in secondary schools to update their skills

7. Set up a medium where experts in STEM can speak to young girls in secondary schools from time to time (InspireIT needs help and collaborators in this area)

On a general note

Organising STEM forums, providing computers and access to the internet will make a huge difference in the lives of many young girls in Africa especially those interested in pursuing a career in STEM.

The Path to Participation Initiative from World Pulse and No Ceilings

Comments 16

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Alyssa Rust
Apr 23, 2015
Apr 23, 2015

Dear Adanna,

Thank you so much for sharing about the work that you are doing with InspireIT. It sounds like you have been able to make some great progress even though you face major challenges. The internet is such a great tool and working at getting more computers in the classroom will really help with women and girls who are interested in STEM but also to give them more knowledge and empowerment. It is hard to hear about so many girls who want to be involved in STEM and your training program but that are not able to because of the money or the lack of time and equipment. However, it is good to hear that many are able to use their mobile phones, although at a cost, to access the Internet and connect that way. Wishing the best for you and InspireIT moving forward to bring Internet and IT training to girls in secondary school. Thank you for sharing your story about the great work that is going on in Nigeria.

Sincerely,  Alyssa Rust 

Adanna
Apr 27, 2015
Apr 27, 2015

Dear Alyssa,

Thank you for your words of encouragement!. I plan to use InspireIT as a platform to reach millions of young girls and women interested in STEM all over the world.

x

Adanna

Nabiye Tal
Apr 29, 2015
Apr 29, 2015

Dear Adanna,

I must start by commending you and your courage and determination to continue to stay positive and believing in your vision despite the challenges. I relate with what you have written 100%. I am a Nigerian too, i reside in Abuja, and a product of Stem. At the Moment i Lecture Physics at a Private University in Nigeria, and i can tell you alot of these girls are interested in STEM but are faced with so many challenges and discouragements simply because they are girls. Even though i focus on Gender Violence in IEVAWC, we still go from schools to schools to encourage girls and its sad how most times the school authorities which constitute mostly women discourage us. I look forward to meeting you in person soon and get to know more about InspireIT so we can join hands together and continue to stand uo for what we believe in, in this Unique country of ours. Cheers...

Hugs :)

Adanna
Apr 30, 2015
Apr 30, 2015

Dear Nabiye,

I am excited to read from you!. To think you lecture Physics, that is amazing. I believe you will make a lot of difference in InspireIT. Please check your inbox.

Hugs :)

Adanna

Tina van Leuven
Apr 30, 2015
Apr 30, 2015

Dear Adanna, 

I love your dedication and persistence to make InspireIT available for young girls and women! Despite the obvious challenges and resistance you encounter along the way, such as the reasons the principal gave, you come up with possible solutions.

It takes great courage to speak up and open the way for new perspectives to be adopted amongst communities and in a world where girls and women have been seen as second class citizens and yet... one story at a time is creating ripple effects of change. Thank you for letting your voice be heard and opening the way for new conversations that contribute to the empowerment of the feminine within us all.

joyful blessings from Australia,

Tina 

Adanna
May 01, 2015
May 01, 2015

Dear Tina,

It really takes a lot of courage to speak up. Sometimes, some people ask me if I really know that what I want to achieve is a tough one but I always remind them that "Little drops of water make a mighty ocean".

I agree with you that "One story at a time is creating ripple effects of change".

Thank you for encouraging a sister :).

x

Adanna

Mauwa Brigitte
May 05, 2015
May 05, 2015

Adanna,

J'apprécie votre courage avec cette grande perspective qui vous inspire à vulgariser votre capacité sur le STEM afin que les filles, les femmes puissent s'impliquer.  Et votre persévérance pour faire InspireIT disponibles pour les jeunes filles et les femmes! Malgré les difficultés évidentes et de la résistance que vous rencontrez tout au  long du chemin, comme les raisons du principal donné, vous venez avec des solutions possibles. Prenez aussi le temps de faire comprendre leurs parents l'impact de l'inspirlT pour les jeunes filles qui sont négligées dans la société, faire des seminaires, ateliers des formations pour avour un esprit nouveau sur la technologie.

Adanna
May 05, 2015
May 05, 2015

Dear Brigitte,

Thank you!

x

Adanna

Iffat Gill
May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015
Adanna
May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015

Dear Iffat,

Thank you. I will certainly tune in! :)

x

Adanna

vallen57
Jul 15, 2015
Jul 15, 2015

Hi Adanna,

I too commend you for your efforts on this important initiative. I wanted to bring to your attention a company located in the Silicon Valley, UDEMY, of whom provides on-line course taking and offerings, of which has a non-profit link = see here:

https://about.udemy.com/social-innovation/#%23tabsNGO

Check it out and see if they can help you in your efforts.

Keep me posted, OK?

Thank you!

Sree
Jul 15, 2015
Jul 15, 2015

Hello Adanna,

I just joined WorldPulse community to listen and connect to ladies like you. After reading your inspiring story, I can totally conclude that how the girls are discouraged in some countries. Even I had to face some challenges to get the Masters/graduation degree in Computer Science. Now I am currently working in a technology innovation group as a Global Solutions Architect. As a fellow sister I would like to connect with you and support you in any way needed to train the girls to be the products of STEM.  Having qualified in the STEM area, I would like to take this wonderful oppurtunity to support in every way I can from US.

Thank you and take care

Sree

Adanna
Jul 16, 2015
Jul 16, 2015

Hi Vicky,

Thank you for your encouragement. I will certainy check UDEMY out and keep you posted.

Thank you once again!

Adanna

Adanna
Jul 16, 2015
Jul 16, 2015

Hello Sree,

Thank you for indicating interest in helping young girls and women interested in STEM worldwide. With a background like yours,many young girls and women will be interested in learning from you. Also it will encourage them to step out of their 'comfort' zones and become great innovators.

You can register as a mentor on www.nueclaservices.com/inspireit or send an email to writetousinspireit@gmail.com

Adanna

Tamarack Verrall
Aug 29, 2015
Aug 29, 2015

Dear Adanna,

I am glad for the information that you have laid out here as to the challenges that you are facing in getting IT information to girls in Nigeria. Your non-threatening response to the Principal was brilliant, and I hope it has softened her resistance to your proposals. Your proposed solutions are valuable globally, and I especially wish you success in your country, and appreciate the awareness of the extra difficulties that you face with the lack of access to computers and internet. 

Best wishes with your work dear sister,

Tam

Adanna
Aug 31, 2015
Aug 31, 2015

Dear Tam,

Thank you so much for your wonderful wishes :).

I will continue to do my best.

Kind regards,

Adanna