The Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA) has rolled out a mentorship and outreach programme to schools to motivate learners to excel in Science, Technology Education and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
Through the initiative, the State Corporation also aims to empower teachers across the country to deliver on the subjects at the same time spark interest in learners to support the government’s development and industrialization agenda.
CEMASTEA National Trainer Martin Mungai said through working with teachers, the State Corporation domiciled in the Ministry of Education had identified gaps in teaching methodologies adding that through the outreach program, teachers were being exposed to various models and resources that can be used to teach the subjects.
The models, he added, have been designed to simplify various concepts in Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, robotics and coding, Climate Change and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) to regenerate interest amongst learners.
CEMASTEA, he said, was empowering teachers with skills to use locally available resources to develop the models to aid in practical learning.
“We realized that the biggest challenge was the lack of a practical approach to teaching STEM subjects. We are therefore demonstrating how teachers can use locally available resources to teach a concept in a very practical manner,” he said.
The goal, he added, was to renew interest in the subjects through demonstrating their importance to students with a view to encouraging as many students as possible to pursue them.
“As a country we may not have an opportunity to advance as fast as countries in the west if we do not embrace STEM subjects. So, there is a need to continually encourage our learners to show them the importance of STEM in the development of the country,” he said.
Speaking during one of the outreach activities at Ken Obura Secondary School in Kisumu, Mungai said the hands-on activities with students will enable teachers to unpack concepts in easy and practical ways.
“We are trying to connect what they are learning in class to the outside world and the opportunities available if they take up these subjects,” he said.
CEMASTEA, he disclosed targets to reach at least 50 schools across the country this financial year expressing optimism that the outreach programme will have a ripple effect on performance in the subjects.
“We have been inviting teachers and students to our innovative laboratories in Nairobi but you realize that most schools are limited with resources and are therefore not able to come,” he said.
He challenged the teachers to take advantage of the skills acquired through the programme and be innovative to boost performance in the subjects.
“Creation of an interest in a subject solely depends on the teacher. We encourage our teachers to create a positive attitude amongst the learners particularly in subjects like chemistry and physics and demonstrate to them why they need to pursue them for future possibilities,” he said.
The trainers also visited St. John’s Christostom Secondary School, Bishop Abiero Shauri Moyo Secondary School and Lions Day Secondary School where students had hands-on experience with various concepts in STEM subjects.
Mungai said the exercise had wooed back students who had opted to drop some of the science subjects urging teachers to inspire hope and encourage more learners to take up the subjects.
“When you see a number of students revising their choice of subjects after being exposed to these models it shows that there is hope in changing the attitude towards science and mathematics,” he said.
Speaking during the same occasion, Kisumu Central Sub-County Director of Education Mr. Charles Ang’iela said the outreach programme was critical in reigniting interest in science and mathematics.
Through the programme, he said, more teachers and students will benefit from skills and practical knowledge to boost performance.
“It is very expensive for a school to transport students and teachers to CEMASTEA headquarters but when they come here, they get in touch with many students and teachers. The equipment they bring to induct the teachers is very effective,” he said.
The exposure given to students, he said, will help transform their attitude towards the subjects since some of the concepts which hitherto looked difficult have been simplified.
Elvira Gero, a Mathematics and Physics teacher at Bishop Abiero Shauri Moyo Secondary School said the approach by CEMASTEA was set to transform how the subjects are taught in secondary schools.
“Most of us teachers are competing with coverage of the syllabus so we tend to overlook some practicals, Today I have learnt that if you approach a topic in a practical way, it is grasped faster than when you just do theory,” she said.
Most of the schools in the area, she said, lacked basic laboratory equipment making it difficult for teachers to break down some of the concepts.
The sensitization by CEMASTEA on use of locally available resources to come up with teaching aids to demystify concepts in science and mathematics, she added, will go a long way in boosting performance in the subjects.
By Chris Mahandara