UNESCO’S STEM mentorship programme for girls bears fruits


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The mentorship programmes launched by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to increase participation of girls and women in sciences through mentorship has improved interest in diverse STEM careers.

In the UNESCO/GOK STEM Mentorship Program Assessment Report, UNESCO Regional Office for East Africa Director Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta said the programme, which lasted for five years till 2020, was adjudged as hugely successful by a cross section of educationists based on analysis.

As a result of the success, UNESCO declared commitment to continue addressing the low participation of girls and women in STEM through close collaboration with both the government and private sector.

Education stakeholders demanded for the mentorship to be expanded to more girls’ secondary schools and that boys should be gradually included in the programme.

Ndong-Jatta said requests for adoption of gender responsive teacher trainings, gender-responsive pedagogy and inclusive technology and innovation programmes in mentorship packages would be factored in under future mentorship projects.

The report pointed out that past trends like girls being left behind in STEM subjects needed to be reversed through intensive mentorship from an early age, gender responsive trainings, gender-responsive pedagogy and inclusive technology and innovation programmes.

It further pointed out that although more girls were attending school presently, they continued to be significantly under-represented in STEM subjects and in the emerging Information Communication Technology propelled jobs.

“The girls appear to lose interest in STEM subjects as they reach adolescence and hence the need to debunk the myths that girls do not like sciences,” reported the Director.

She noted that the mentorship was partly prompted by findings under the World Economic Forum that 65 per cent of children enrolled in primary schools within the last decade were headed to jobs which did not exist today.

After recognizing this gap, UNESCO initiated the STEM Mentorship Program through Scientific Camps of Excellence in Kenya in 2014 targeting average performing secondary school girls mostly from rural areas.

Under the programme, more than 2,000 students in over 160 secondary schools were mentored.

The programme operate under three facets: mentorship talks by STEM role models, exposure to the learning environment in the institutions of higher learning and visits to the industry for experience of the actual application of STEM subjects in providing solutions to real life problems.

By Robert Nyagah

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