Rwandan students on boosting STEM-education through hands-on methods

Nancy teaching and demonstrating concepts on Renewable Energy (Solar power, Wind power, Hydrogen power, etc) to Sci-Touche 2019 participants at the Kigali Public Library. Courtesy.

Assumpta Gasana and Nancy Ingabire Abayo are civil engineering students and the brains behind Sci-Touche, an initiative that seeks to leverage science-related curriculums into more practical applications through scientific experiments in schools.

The project aims at providing space and equipment for all Rwandan students who are pursuing, or aspire to pursue, STEM-related courses at higher levels of education.

“Growing up in Rwanda, we didn’t have a variety of opportunities that would improve science education” Gasana says.

Assumpta Gasana, student  at Bucknell University in USA studying civil engineering, and co-founder at Sci-Touche

And science-related subjects like, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, biology among others, are in need of a more practical approach, she says. 

“A young aspiring scientist in school should not be wired by only notes, rather, they should be given different platforms on which they experiment their works. This will boost their innovative ideas, and more Rwandan graduates will compete on an international level,” Gasana adds.

In partnership with the Kigali Public Library, the duo organised the first science experiment in the country for science students, and most importantly, the experiment emphasised the necessity of practical education.

Nancy Ingabire Abayo,  PhD student in Civil Engineering at North Carolina State University, Bucknell Graduate from the class of 2019 and co-founder at Sci-Touche

During the event, students who were in attendance were tipped on how their class noted-work can be conceptualised. The platform also enabled students to carry out their own experiments and access a stronger network with other young scientists.

Gasana and Abayo believe that students of the next generation should not be deprived of an opportunity to have a more hands-on education.

“As people who pursued basic education in Rwanda and went off to college in the USA, we identified the need of implementing practical education starting at a young age, giving a chance to the next generation,” Gasana says.

Currently, the duo has competed in two different competitions to be able to raise enough funds for the project implementation that was slated July 6 to August 1 this year.

“We enjoyed this project and we hope to make this happen every summer since we are all still students,” Gasana says.

Nancy teaching and demonstrating concepts from various topics in Physics to Sci-Touche 2019 participants at the Kigali Public Library

The duo believes that there is a quest for more investment in practical education, but most importantly, young people should take a lead in solving different social problems the country faces.

“Because we all can do something no matter where you are in life,” she adds.

The bigger picture

The Minister of Education, Dr Eugene Mutimura, earlier told Education Times that the Government’s policy is to strengthen and prioritise STEM subjects, especially among female students.

However, the STEM discipline (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) still faces different setbacks, among which, translating science into real life-meaning was highlighted. And with this, the need for more notions and projects that promote sciences if more students are to embrace STEM education was pointed out.

As policymakers worldwide are already focusing on increasing the number of STEM graduates and the diversity of STEM students, there needs to be an expansion of the scope of STEM education, to ensure that students learn to evaluate and respond to the social, economic, and political consequences of their work.

“And it, therefore, goes without mention that for the next generation of young aspiring students to benefit from the STEM field, more effort should be put in fostering a hands-on and experimental education system, especially for students,” Gasana says.

In an article—Hacking the STEM syllabus— Mitchell Baker, the co-founder and chair of the Mozilla Foundation and the Mozilla Corporation, wrote that expanding STEM education to include such broader considerations would serve as a cornerstone of a more comprehensive long-term strategy to ensure that technology serves society in overwhelmingly positive ways. 

“That strategy must also include changes, say, to business models, incentives, innovation strategies, and regulatory regimes — changes that should be pursued by people whose education has prepared them to address the effects of their work on the rest of us,” Baker said. 

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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