To date, several challenges hindering the development of women in science have been identified. In Africa, the ‘leaking pipeline’ already starts in primary school education, with few girls progressing to secondary school and even fewer towards tertiary education.
Several reasons for the latter are grounded in socio-economic and cultural beliefs, but for girls who wish to pursue further education, three overarching concerns are present, which form the basis of our future goals. These are:
(a) Lack of basic institutional capacity to support any practical teaching component of STEM education in most schools, such as a complete lack of basic infrastructure and apparatus.
(b) Demotivated and demoralized STEM teachers due to limited infrastructure, resources, and the high number of students.
(c) Lack of linkages with university and research institutions to advise on science careers, inspire the pupils and provide them with access to core specialized scientific instruments (such as basic microscopes).
WHERE WE SEE ASOP IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS
To address some of these challenges, the ASOP team proposes to expand the African school’s outreach program to reach more girls and strengthen the capacity of schools to coach, mentor and prepare girls for science careers in Kenya and beyond where a very active outreach team of researchers is involved in mentoring high school girls and expanding beyond girls without access to education. We plan to acquire three more lab-in-a-suitcase to upscale the hands-on experimental activities.
These will be distributed to different teams of mentors located in different regions of Kenya as we currently have only one kit in Nairobi limiting the extent of the outreach as only one team can visit different schools at any one time.
We also hope to partner and anchor the program by establishing a science outreach center at;
(i) the University of Nairobi for institutional involvement and support
(ii) A community Center for easy access and learning where girls in underprivileged communities and backgrounds could experience real laboratory experience and develop simple solutions to their societal challenges. The centers will serve as outreach hubs for the delivery of mentorship programs for the continuous enrichment of STEM teachers as well as collection points for the various community challenges where solutions are co-designed and co-developed.
We hope to co-design teacher/community champions programs on new teaching methodology/strategies, building scientific skills (talent development), training in the use of the mobile lab-in-a suitcase, and exposure them to various scientific degrees offered by the Universities and science careers to follow. Therefore, we plan to expand and upscale the activities with an aim of engaging at least 15 schools, 3 communities, mentoring a minimum of 600 girls directly and 100 teachers every year in Kenya to increase the number of girls and women transiting to universities to pursue science courses and later taking up science careers.