Scientists have called on education stakeholders, including parents and teachers, to rally young girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses (STEM), at higher learning institutions.
The call was made yesterday as Rwanda joined the rest of the world to celebrate Mathematics Day.
It is the first time the day was marked in Rwanda.
Dubbed Pi-Day (π Day), the day was celebrated with emphasis on the importance of mathematics in people’s daily lives.
Pi stands for a Greek letter “π” which is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant.
Scientists said while girls study sciences at secondary levels, they later lose interest in pursuing science related courses, especially majoring in mathematics.
Only 25 per cent of girls enroll for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to education officials.
The event in Kigali featured a mathematics competition for secondary students from 10 science schools, including eight based in Kigali and two from the countryside.
They included Gashora Girls Academy, Maranyundo Girls Schools, Lycée De Kigali, APE Rugunga in Kigali, Fawe Girls School, Lycee Notre Dame de Citeau, College Saint Andre in Nyamirambo, Green Hills Academy, Nu Vision High School in Kabuga, and White Dove Girls School.
Among the 143 students who participated, 103 were girls and 40 boys.
More girls were attracted in order to inspire and encourage them to love science courses.
The exercise was marked immediately.
Aline Utetiwabo, from Gashora Girls Academy, emerged third after two boys.
The overall winner was Yvan Gatete, from Lycée de Kigali, who walked away with $500 and an Ipad.
He is also entitled to attend an annual mathematical competition to be held in Kenya at the end of this year.
Other winners were Arnaud Sebukono, from College Saint André in Nyamirambo, and Eric Ishimwe from Lycée de Kigali.
The second, third and fourth winners will get full school fees sponsorship at their respective schools for this year courtesy of a UR-Sweden programme.
All participants in the competition were awarded certificates.
The event was organised by University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology’s department of mathematics in partnership with African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), UR-Sweden programme, and East Africa Centre for Fundamental Research.
Philip Cotton, UR-Vice chancellor, speaking as chief guest, said the University of Rwanda has female staff members with PhDs in mathematics who should inspire young girls to do mathematics.
They are competent and deliver quality education, he said of the university dons.
Prof.Bengt-Ove Turesson, Sweden Programme coordinator who represented Swedish embassy at the event, said Sweden will maintain support to University of Rwanda’s education and infrastructures development programmes.
Lydia Mpiganzima a PhD Mathematics lecturer at the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology said out of 15 students in her class only four are girls.
Mpinganzima said the traditional perception that mathematical courses are a preserve of boys only should be discarded.
If a girl can pass Biology, Kinyarwanda or History then she can also pass science related courses, she said.
Dr Ignace Gatare, Principal of College of Science and Technology, observed that mathematics is core in all aspects of people’s daily lives.
Divine Ineza, a Senior Six student offering Mathematics, Physics and Computer sciences combination at Nu Vision High School said that girls’ dreams should not be hindered by wrong perceptions of some people.
“Many girls dream of becoming competitive scientists but their vision is undermined by public perceptions about sciences. My dream is to do Architecture at the university and it includes mathematics. My fellow girls should defy the negative perceptions and work hard to achieve their dreams,” she said.
Inis Teta Munezero of Gashora Girls Academy offering Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology noted that sciences demand self-confidence.