The Embassy of Ireland has called for the creation of more spaces for Nigerian women and girls to thrive in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Second Secretary, Political, Embassy of Ireland, Grace Earley, made the call in Abuja at a “Girls in STEM Hackathon”, a sciences and technology-driven programme for underprivileged girls in Kuje Area Council in the FCT.
The “Girls in STEM Hackathon” was organised by the KNOSK 100-A Day Charity Secondary School, Kuje, as part of its academic programme to boost girls science prowess.
Earley said that the government of Nigeria is responsible for creating the enabling space and providing learning tools for girls to thrive in science and its related fields.
“What I have seen today is very good and it brings a positive impression to mind. I am really impressed by the innovations of the various science projects groups, and especially the female-led groups,"
“STEM is a very important sector and we should be encouraging the young people, without bias to any genders,"
“Particularly women and girls need all it takes to excel in STEM because it is not something most girls would pick interest in and some who have interest in sciences may not be opportune to go into it,"
“So when we see girls in a male-dominated field, it’s our responsibility as people, parents, tutors, mentors, role models and government to encourage them, especially with the enabling tools and environment to thrive,” she said.
Earley said that the Irish govt is already supporting three students of the school with their tuition fee for six years, and is willing to further engage with the school authorities on programmes to motivate learning.
Co-Founder of the KNOSK 100 A-Day Charity School, Kingsley Bangwell said that the girls in STEM Hackathon were organised to showcase the impressive science innovation of the beneficiaries of the funded girls stem Hackathon project.
“The idea is that we have funding from a foundation in Australia called the Worley Foundation, and under this grant, we are empowering young children that are out of school and educationally disadvantaged with STEM-based education,"
“These girls have gone through weeks of STEM education and now they have come up with projects and today they are showcasing their projects,"
“The ideas and concept of the projects are based on problems identified in their local communities and that could be solved through technology,"
“So basically, these girls have come up with solutions to the problems facing their various communities,” he said.
Bangwell said that the Hackathon programme runs for the students in the school as a part of the school academic programme infused in their daily studies.
He, however, said that during the holidays, the school ran a summer boot camp where children in the community who were not in the KNOSK school and who do not have access to technology could benefit from it.
“So far in the last summer, we worked with about 82 children in the community, and every holiday we engage the community and it serves as our own way to give back to the community,"
“However, we do encounter challenges such as computer illiteracy, because most of the children in the community have not seen or touched a computer and so many of them have been out of school for over two to three years,"
“So we have the challenge of bridging the gap on literacy, also we do not have enough space to accommodate them, and we need more computers, and other stem equipment,” he said.
Mrs Angela Nkechi Nwachukwu, Representative of the office of the Director of FCT Department of Science and Technology, said that the FCTA is interested in STEM and has five core science and technical colleges.
“We know every community has a peculiar challenge and getting the students to identify these issues and proffer stem solutions tailored to the problems is a laudable thing,"
“So we need to continue to encourage the young ones in STEM, and especially girls,” she said.
She said “I have done a lot of write-ups and reports on what I have seen today and I will take back all I have seen, the zeal, the desire of the students and the outcome of their projects will be reported to my Director who is STEM-inclined for further actions.
She commended the founders of the school and sponsors of the Hackathon projects and urged them to continue to support the school in showcasing the young innovators.
She also urged the media to showcase all the children have done so it could get the right attention and secure the future of these children.