Many Kenyan students by now have settled in school and are learning. During this period, the opportunity to encourage more students into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is been presented. We all know that gender disparity hinders development in all areas, and therefore cannot ignore the pressing need to involve women in STEM. In past efforts, the Kenyan government has collaborated in programs offering gender-responsive training to STEM teachers, and mentorship to young girls. To address this gap, more steps need to be taken by the stakeholders.
Let’s briefly explore some ways we can close this gap;
- Gender stereotypes should be actively eliminated
The image of women in science is misleadingly portrayed to the global society. Also, the notion implying that STEM courses are male dominated often discourages girls and creates unnecessary pressure to boys who might want to pursue other courses.
All children should be actively guided in making career choices. This should be based on their interests, not on gender stereotypes. The question of what they would like to become when they grow up should be followed by the question, ‘why’?
- Schools should begin career guidance at Primary School Level
In 2017, a review by Nation Newsplex revealed that ONLY 25% of students had enlisted for science courses at the higher education level. On the other hand, 43% had enrolled in Business and Education. This survey also found that many students were registered in courses they did not know or understand.
Students from lower education levels should be made aware of the courses that Kenyan universities offer and also how to access the opportunities in STEM. This will promote healthy competition for both boys and girls. They should also give students a chance to learn coding at an early age – Why It Is Important For Children To Learn Basic Computer And Coding Skills
3. Teachers should let children express themselves through Science Communication
From a young age, children should be encouraged to learn science through posters, paintings, molded exhibits, photography, singing and even poetry. Teaching and examination methods that encourage cramming and copy-pasting should be avoided. More creative approaches should be encouraged.
If both male and female students enjoy the classes, they are more likely to willingly pursue sciences in future.
- Kenyan Parents should be made aware of the opportunities in STEM
When students are almost clearing from high school, many parents worry about the courses their children will select and are often poorly equipped to guide their children on career choices. The parents often leave this role to the teachers, who may not have enough time, especially during the K.C.S.E period.
Parents should be called to workshops and forums in schools in order to receive guidance. They should be able to talk to talk to their children about careers from a young stage. Children should not be left to stumble into any careers but should be guided into honing their talents regardless of their gender.
5. Celebrating women in STEM in the media
The society needs to recognize the women in STEM. Many do not recognize the ground-breaking advancements made by women in science. Women have been involved in the invention and development of windshield wipers, the whooping cough vaccines and in creating telecommunication.
We also need to recognize and support the women in Kenya that are committed to mentoring young women and girls in Kenya.
“We look at science as something very elite, something only a few people can learn. That’s just not true. You just have to start early and give kids a foundation. Kids live up, or down to expectations.” – Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space.