Educationalists findingways to make sciencesubjects popular in schools

03Jun 2020
Crispin Gerald
The Guardian
Educationalists findingways to make sciencesubjects popular in schools

​​​​​​​“Focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects are vital for the socio-economic development of any country. Educationalists and development experts stress the importance of finding ways to make these subjects popular and to develop teaching and-

-learning strategies to increase capacity for these subjects in our schools.” said Professor Yunus Mgaya, director general of the National Institute for Medical Research.

Professor Mgaya who is also the chairperson of the Board of Young Scientists Tanzania, is proud that Young Scientists Tanzania (YST) is one such organisation that has been working diligently since 2011 to build capacity in the STEM subjects among secondary students across the country.

This year, Young Scientists Tanzania is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

YST is a unique and innovative programme in Africa, focusing on supporting and improving the skills of secondary students, and to develop the love for the sciences by encouraging a practical approach to learning and engaging in primary scientific research.

The programme delivers two integrated and complementary events in the Science for Development Outreach Programme covering all regions in Tanzania, the second is an attractive high profile Annual YST Exhibition and Awards Ceremony.

The Exhibition and Awards Ceremony is a platform to showcase the success of the outreach programme and it gives the secondary students the opportunity to showcase their research.

YST Co-founder, Dr Gozibert Kamugisha reports that the YST Science for Development Programme has been a great success in encouraging students from secondary schools all over the country to invest their time and passion in science research.

“From the beginning, YST has grown organically as a grassroots operation. It has built this great “science family” over the last 10 years. Many of our participants have gone on to take up great careers in science and technology. It is a remarkable achievement that in only 10 years, we have built YST to a national institution and our YST family are now actively engaged in developing our country,” he said.

According to YST project manager, Nabil Karatela, the YST Science for Development outreach programme took place in secondary schools across all regions from early January to March this year. In cognisant of the impending pandemic, YST decided to hold the outreach programme earlier this year.

Nabil added that the outreach is specially conducted to provide training for teachers on how scientific research and innovation is essential for individual and national development.

“At the teacher workshops, participants are exposed to science research methodologies and taught how to apply the scientific research approach to their project proposals. This year YST trained 176 teachers and 2416 students across Tanzania in the programme,” he explained.

“This year we did our science outreach in January, and it was very successful. Our science advisors worked with all our regional coordinators and teachers. Before our closing date on 13th March, we had an amazing record of 604 applications,” Nabil said.

“We received projects from every region in Tanzania,” said Dr Brendan Doggett, YST senior judge. “This year the standard was excellent and we had a tough time screening the projects and selecting the successful projects to participate in YST 2020. This year we have shortlisted 140 projects,” Dr Doggett said.

The great success of YST is mainly due to the work of the YST regional coordinator’s network. Each region in Tanzania has a designated coordinator that liaises with the YST team and coordinates activities in their regions.

“I have been a YST regional co-ordinator since 2012 and every year I get more and more excited by the passion, enthusiasm and curiosity of our students,” said Sarah Milunga, Arusha YST Regional co-ordinator.

“Our students are looking around them, looking at the challenges and problems facing their communities. YST is giving them a unique opportunity to research and find solutions to their problems. I am so impressed that these young students have the confidence to believe that they will find solutions of the existing problems in the society,” she explained.

For his part, Beatus Mayunga, Mbeya YST regional co-ordinator and science teacher at Pandahill secondary school, stressed the importance of the YST programme in encouraging students to look at science and technology in a new exciting way.

“The programme (YST) gives students the confidence to believe that they can change their lives and society through their research. Could anything be better than that?” Beatus states. He called for more investment in resources to improve the learning environment and to encourage practical approaches in doing scientific research.

This year YST team will hold their Tenth Anniversary Exhibition Awards Ceremony on 28th July 2020 in what promises to be a great celebration of the Young Scientists Tanzania project.

“Who would have believed that the seed planted in May 2009 with Dr Gozibert Kamugisha (fellow YST Co-founder) would germinate and grow into such a great Science for Development model in Tanzania in only ten years,” said Joseph Clowry, YST Co-founder.

“As we approach to our tenth anniversary, we remember the Pearson Foundation in particular who provided the initial incubation funding for this great project.

The team also appreciate a great support from Karimjee Jivanjee Foundation who have been our main partner since 2012, together with Concern Worldwide who has been one of our loyal supporters since 2011.

“The growth of YST would not have been possible without our great sponsors over the years and the continued support of the government’’ said Titus Mteleka, YST government liaison officer.

He said that the programme introduces science research at an early stage in education and in doing so develops an important science culture in our secondary schools by rewarding innovation and innovators.

The science for development outreach model helps to disseminate scientific knowledge and encourages teachers and students to embed contextualised scientific knowledge in their teaching and learning experiences.

The Science Outreach Programme is augmenting the Tanzania National five-year development plan as published by the Ministry of Finance And Planning. It also aligns with the African Union, Continental Education Strategy Plan (CESA 2015-2025).

The strategic objectives are to fully reorient African education and training systems towards the achievement of the African Union’s vision and Agenda 2063. It plans to achieve this by strengthening the science and math curricula in youth training and by disseminating scientific knowledge and culture in society. These strategic objectives mirrors and aligns with the strategic objective of the Young Scientists Tanzania Strategic Document (2011),” states Titus.

“The success of the project on the ground has also been due to the huge amount of work, passion, and resilience by all our great students, teachers, regional coordinators, volunteers, YST team and YST board over the last decade” said Dr Kamugisha.

“Young Scientists Tanzania gives students and teachers the opportunity to be agents of change in the country by encouraging indigenous scientific research. The YST mentoring network helps the students along the path as they find solutions to the challenges they face on a daily level. It gives our students the confidence to follow their dreams and promotes indigenous scientific knowledge and culture.” Dr Gozibert added. YST continues to inspire our next generation of scientists.

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