News 11 july — 22:18

Africa aims to get more girls to embrace STEM

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Education officials from selected Anglophone countries in Africa are meeting in the Rwandan capital Kigali to explore ways to get more girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM),Anadolu Agency reports.

The forum, which ends Friday, was organized by the UN’s education agency UNESCO under the theme "Cracking the code: Quality, Gender-Responsive STEM Education."

It has attracted participants from eight countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

The education officials are looking at factors that influence girls’ participation, learning outcomes, and retention in STEM studies.

The forum’s attendees are also considering the current situation in participating countries, good practices, and actions to be taken to ensure gender-responsive quality STEM education.

Silas Lwakabamba, a former minister of education for Rwanda and a member of the Atlantis Group of former education ministers around the world, told Anadolu Agency it is important to encourage girls to take STEM subjects while they are still in primary school in order to increase their numbers at both school and university levels.

According to UN Women, the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, while more girls are enrolled in school than before, girls are significantly under-represented in STEM subjects in many settings and seem to lose interest in STEM subjects as they approach adolescence.

“We need to encourage young girls through role models, to get them interested. There are a number of women who have done very well in mathematics, engineering and pure sciences who can show young girls that this can be done,” Lwakabamba said in an interview Wednesday.

The workshop was expected to come up with strategies to intensify efforts to engage girls in STEM and develop a framework for monitoring and evaluating progress on STEM and gender.

Lwakabamba said cultural beliefs are another barrier to girls’ careers in sciences that needs to be addressed.

There is a need to get people who can encourage parents to talk to their daughters to debunk the myth that STEM is a preserve of men and that doing engineering is about climbing ladders, he said.

Speaking at the workshop earlier, Rwanda’s Minister of State in Charge of Primary and Secondary Education, Isaac Munyakazi, called for deliberate actions to create gender-responsive STEM educational environments that engage, empower and inspire girls.

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