Girls and technological courses

Science is a field many girls may shy away from because it is branded a ‘boy thing’. File photo.

“Like any child, I wanted to be many things; nurse, doctor, and more. I grew up hoping that one day, I would treat patients, and see where I am now—I am studying physiotherapy.

“It starts as a dream that you look forward to fulfilling—sciences, mathematics and physics are combined concepts of technology and we all need technology to develop. Students, especially girls, should have a growth mindset that enables them understand that they are not born knowing how to do things, rather, they learn how to do things and improve skills every single day. Every girl should believe that they can do what seems hard, by doing so, they will be an example to younger ones,” says Marie Pierre Francoise Abimana, a second year student at University of Rwanda.

The technology industry has contributed largely to the gross domestic product growth in Rwanda which has attracted investors; however, the number of females in this field is still low. Although much has been done to solve this issue, there are still more skills that are necessary in schools and communities to empower the girl child to study or take on technological courses.

According to Lucile Otieno, a teacher at Path to Success International School, Kimihurura, girls should interact with women who have successfully made it in the technological area; they will get to know what it takes to make it and how to overcome challenges. This will prepare students on what to expect and believing that they can make it just like other girls have.

She notes that school leaders should provide laboratory coats to kids at a young age so that they view themselves as future scientists.

“Encourage girls, tell them that they can make it; also, observe children as they grow because they may show interest in fixing things and creating their own games. Discover what they are good, support and learn more about what they love to do. Girls should also be exposed to books about technology and encouraged to read these books, they will get tips,” says Martha Nassolo, a teacher at Little Bears Montessori School.

Nassolo explains that girls need to be cheered and advised to participate in computing contests. This will help them have passion in computing and programming.

She adds that girls should be given chances to get hands on skills, for instance; use tools, build, and explore hands-on projects. They should engage in household items, ask them to fix the computers, they will eventually develop confidence and brace their skills.

She adds that girls should be connected to local, regional and national organisations like ‘Girl who can code’, and should be persuaded to join clubs that offer programmes focused on science and technology.   

Josephine Kobusingye, a girls’ education activist from FAWE Rwanda, says that teachers, parents and mentors should call upon girls to see the role of science and technology in their everyday life and hearten them to take an active stand in meeting everyday challenges.

She says that guardians and teachers need to boost girls’ confidence, and assure them that they can do science and technological courses like boys, or even better. Their mindset should be changed. All this could be done through mentorship programmes, holding science boot camps where role models are invited to teach science, and hold science clinics and then conduct guided tours to industries.

Nassolo says that teachers and parents should help stop stereotypes and beliefs that girls are less intellectually capable in science or computer courses because this puts females in a weak position.

Kobusingye adds that there should be career guidance for the girls in lower classes to follow their passion as early as possible, and cheer them on to be innovators.

Samuel Nyende, a teacher at Ebenezer Christian Secondary, says that technological lessons should be introduced in schools starting from primary, and the whole community should be sensitised about how girls benefit from such courses and provide necessary support.

“I was weak in sciences and mathematics, but I noticed that everything needs commitment, persistence and knowing what you want and going for it. I am a software tester; I am now working with Muraho Technology Ltd in a four month internship programme in management and software testing,” says Isabelle Bucyeyeneza, a software tester.

Bucyeyeneza says women are capable and when they start something, they finish it. They are always finding solutions, and that is what technology is about— finding solutions. Don’t stop setting goals. Every day something new comes up and this calls for new opportunities, skills, jobs, and promotions and so on. So ask yourself, if not me then who? If not now, then when?