Online project stirring students’ interest in science

By Gilbert Nakweya

[NAIROBI] An online initiative that connects secondary school students and scientists in Kenya is helping improve the standards of science education.

The initiative known as “I am a Scientist, Get me out of here” is part of the Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Research Programme’s community engagement work.

“[The initiative] is a free online event where secondary school students get to meet and interact with scientists,” said Steve Adala, a research scientist from KEMRI, last month (9 February). She added that it is a competition between scientists where students are the judges.

““[The initiative] is a free online event where secondary school students get to meet and interact with scientists.”

Steve Adala, KEMRI

Grace Mwango, who coordinates the initiative at KEMRI, says the initiative was piloted in Kenya in 2014, and the most recent event was organised in Kilifi County in January 2017.

Mwango tells SciDev.Net that the initiative was adapted from a continuing UK-based project with the same name, and aims to respond to local leaders’ requests for involvement of schools and researchers in contributing to local education. She added that the initiative creates an online forum for dialogue.

Adala explains that the Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Research Programme also has Schools Engagement Programme that includes scientists going to schools and students visiting scientists to discuss scientific issues, research and careers.

“Our evaluation found that school engagement activities promoted students confidence in speaking to researchers, nurtured an interest in science, particularly biology, and raised curiosity about future careers related to research, says Adala, adding that they hope to publish their findings this year.

Rufus Ayuku, science teacher at Musoli Secondary School in Western Kenya, has urged the pioneers of the initiative to consider a nationwide scale-up of the initiative because it could help improve the quality of science education in Kenya.

“I want to urge the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to think of such initiatives while developing new curricula for the country” Ayuku says.

Such interactions between scientists and students, he adds, offer a platform that should be used as a paradigm shift in the country’s education sector. “This is important as it gives both boys and girls an opportunity to engage with scientists and could boost their passion and interest in scientific subjects,” he explains.

According to Ayuku such initiatives should be used to boost the growth of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to help transform the country.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.

 

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