INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION OF WOMEN SCIENTISTS IN KENYA
Dr Esther Maina showing Loresho Secondary students how to use a micropipette during one of the sessions of the mock COVID19 vaccination experiment carried out as part of the science outreach activities.
About The Program
The interactive hands-on experimental workshop is a 3hr facilitated practical session with several sections designed to interactively engage 40 students per session to give the students an opportunity to carry out hands-on experiments using modern scientific analytical tools used in modern science labs globally. The workshop is facilitated by women scientists from local universities, research institutions, government departments, and university students who share their career and professional journeys during the interaction with students.
The workshop begins with establishing the student’s understanding of who a scientist is and whether they consider themselves scientists in the making. This is followed by a session on establishing the students’ knowledge of human and animal infectious diseases and how they can be controlled using vaccinations. They are then introduced to analytical biology tools and resources to use to test mock control and field blood sera samples that have purportedly been collected from people presumed to be vaccinated against COVID.
The students perform their own assays by mixing specific volumes of a test reagent with the mock control and sera samples and are able to identify those that react positive and thus have antibodies indicating that the persons have been vaccinated against COVID and those that do not. This is followed by a discussion and analysis of the results they generate with professional scientists to determine the vaccination efficiency and why it is important to vaccinate as many people as possible in the community. In the last section of the workshop, the students engage the women scientists to learn more about their professional and research work, university science courses, and various science career paths.
These laboratory workshops are hosted in parallel with mentoring sessions delivered to the whole school by AWARD country chapter fellows. A tree planting session culminates the workshop to teach students the value of environmental conservation as well as nutrition security by nurturing a culture of growing many fruit trees.
Delivery of the interactive vaccination screening experiment
A pre-planning session to prepare reagents and plasticware at the Biotechnology Centre, KARLO. For safe deliveries of the engagement activities, facilitators were tested and confirmed to beCOVID19 negative.
In Taita, the hands-on interactive COVID-19 mock vaccination testing experiment was delivered by women scientists from three partnering institutions. They included Dr Esther Kanduma (UoN/KeAWARD), Dr Virginia Wangondu (UoN/KeAWARD), Dr Felister Nzuve (UoN/KeAWARD), Dr Dora Kilalo (UoN/KeAWARD) Ms Susan Njuguini (National Museums of Kenya/ KeAWARD) and Ms Celestine Makokha, KALRO).
At Canon Kituri Secondary School, the afternoon mentorship started with motivational and career guidance talks to the entire school of 805 students consisting of 354 girls and 451 boys. A total of 52 students (29 boys, 23 girls) from the school were engaged in a one 3hr afternoon session. Most were aged between 15-19 yrs. Here, the facilitators took turns leading the different sessions.
At Mwakitawa Girls, 80 girls between 15-18 years were taken through the interactive COVID-19 mock vaccination experiment in two back-to-back sessions. Facilitators took turns leading the different sessions.
Summary of pupils’ evaluation and feedback
A total of 63 students consisting of
40 girls (15-20 years) and 23 (1721 years) boys from Loresho day school were engaged during the two sessions carried out. Dr Esther
Maina (UoN), Dr Virginia Wangondu (UoN/KeAWARD), Dr Esther Kanduma (UoN/KeAWARD), Dr Felister Nzuve (UoN/KeAWARD), Ms.
Feedback collected from the Canon Kituri students indicated that they found the interaction to be rewarding, enjoyable, fun, inspiring, interesting, informative and exciting. A quarter found the excise challenging. My favourite parts of the workshop included using pipettes, testing and analyzing the samples. About half of the enjoyed all the sections of the experiment. All the students agreed that women can be scientists, reported learning that vaccines are used to prevent animal and human diseases from spreading and that they would tell their families about the experience they had during the workshop. All of them indicated they could become scientists in future. A teacher reported that the workshop enlightened the students on the importance of science subjects in life.
Feedback from two teachers at Canon Kituri about what they liked about the workshop was that the facilitators are very informed, they have the knowledge, and they are very organized and approachable. Two science teachers suggested that the workshop should consider integrating more ICT and more time to allow more students to benefit.
Some quoted feedback from Canon Kituri students below: –
“The experiment was very interesting, and I would like to thank you for the good time that you have spent with us. I have learnt a lot about science. Thank you!!!”
“I would like to thank the scientists and acknowledge the efforts of my school for bringing us, scientists. I have thought of myself a lot of things and I now know that anybody can become a scientist. This section was really exciting. I know that YES I CAN.”
The feedback below has been received from the Canon Kituri;
Mwakitawa students the interactive experiment to be interesting, enjoyable, fun, inspiring, and exciting while a third of the students found the experience to be surprising and another quarter, rewarding. Most of the students found all the sections to be exciting with the majority reporting that pipetting, mixing and analyzing the samples were most favourite. A few found drawing a scientist challenging. All the students agreed that and except one, they indicated they could become scientists in future. Ninety-nine (99%) reported learning that vaccines are used to prevent animal and human diseases from spreading and that they would tell their families about the experience they had during the workshop. The science teacher liked the fact that the workshop has practical aspects such as sample testing, making observations and analyzing the data. He proposed we have more workshops to reach more students.
Some quoted feedback from some Mwakitawa girls include: –
“I had an amazing experience. I had so much fun learning. I wish that you will be coming more often. Thank you very much. You are inspiring women”.
“My favourite part of the workshop is that I have to change my attitude that from today I will be an Agricultural Scientist. You have inspired me and I like to join Nairobi University to improve my skills”.
“I appreciate the doctors for their good job. It is inspiring and it has made me change my career to a Vaccinologist. THANK YOU ALL!!
“Am so excited and may Gob bless you since you made me realise myself and challenged me to be like you”
Loresho students indicated that they all found the experience to be enjoyable, fun, inspiring, interesting, informative and exciting. Most enjoyed using the micropipette and analyzing the samples while most reported that drawing the scientist was the least favourite. A number of them enjoyed interacting with the scientists. While the majority of the students agreed that women can be scientists, 8 girls and 6 boys indicated that they are not sure or could not become scientists. Ninety-five (95%) per cent reported learning that vaccines are used to prevent animal and human diseases from spreading and that they would tell their families about the experience they had during the workshop. Some quoted feedbacks from the Loresho students: –
“It was good because I got inspired that I can be someone great in the society” “The scientists were good. I have been encouraged. When I grow up, I will be an animal scientist” The scientists are amazing” “I liked how the scientists advised us to become a good scientists. ” “It was the best and I got inspired and motivated by the scientists, Exciting!!”
At the end of the engagement, we donated fruit trees at Canon Kituri and participated in a tree planting exercise at Mwakitawa girls to encourage the students to engage in environmental conservation and fruit farming for supplementing food sources.