President Kenyatta, earlier on Thursday launched the first Kenya Science and Technology Exhibition starts today at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.
The annual science programme, Young Scientists Kenya (YSK) was launched last year by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Government of Ireland through its Embassy in Kenya.
The President said that technology will play a key part in the country’s journey to become a middle-income economy.
“I believe that the solution is in scientific innovation and the harnessing of new ideas that create the ability for Kenya to leapfrog directly into new technologies,” he said while addressing young scientists who will be exhibiting their research projects in the two-day event. Teachers, members of the science academy, private sector representatives and officials from the Irish Embassy, who are partners of the initiative that was launched in 2015.
The winner will also get a scholarship for their tertiary education in addition to a cash reward worth Sh 100,000.
“I’m always very keen to remind the Kenyan people that the median age of our country is 19.5 year. These young men and women are on their way to finding new solutions for our country’s pressing needs, as the future lies in their hands,” he said.
“It is an initiative we support because we believe in young people. We have learnt from Ireland that investing in young people can open doors for development,” said Dr. Vincent O’Neill, the Irish Ambassador to Kenya.
Last year YSK started their pilot program in 10 counties, working with a total of 82 secondary schools, 82 teachers, and 184 students. It is the representatives from these schools who will be presenting their research projects at the exhibition. About 5,000 are expected to participate in the exhibition. President Kenyatta will serve as the patron of Young Scientist Kenya and pledged his support.
About 92 science projects will be showcased. Even Social and Behavioral are represented. Each category will have a winner who will be awarded and there will be an overall winner who will get an opportunity to showcase their projects in an international event in Dublin in 2019. The winner will also get a scholarship for their tertiary education in addition to a cash reward worth Sh 100,000.
The panel of judges will be drawn from the Kenyan National Academy of Sciences and the private sector assessing and providing feedback from the students.
The government has scaled up its support of Technical and Vocational training (TIVET) offering loans and grants to more students to embrace sciences.
“The government now supports TIVETS, because we need people who are more hands-on to help engineers,” said Dr. Moses Rugutt, the Director General, National Commission for Science, Technology, and Innovation.
Dr. Rugutt said that the new curriculum has made sciences simpler and attractive so that more students can embrace Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEMs).
Dr. Rugutt, a key player in the exhibition said that they have ensured that the students will pursue projects that are relevant to local needs and their discoveries and inventions will be protected under Intellectual Property Rights.
The focus on young people is strategic.
According to Joseph Clowry, director, and co-founder of Young Scientists Tanzania (YST), it helps to start nurturing students from a very young age,
“It is like in football, the teams you see excelling, that was talent that moulded at a very young age, and that should be the case with sciences.”
Clowry says in Tanzania, the project has been embraced and the same can be replicated in Kenya.
The uptake of the STEM courses has been improving, although have not reached the desired level.
Education Cabinet Secretary Amb. Amina Mohamed, said in a press conference on June 25, ahead of the exhibition that the exhibition will be an avenue to mentor a young crop of innovators, engineers, and scientists who can significantly contribute to the growth of our economy.
“The initiative mirrors the Government’s efforts to invest in the uptake of STEM subjects across the country, through the roll-out of STEM model schools in all the 47 counties.”
The Young Scientist Kenya will create linkages and opportunities for partnership with academia, government, the private sector and nonstate actors to further enhance the uptake of STEM as well as investment in and commercialization of 90 projects displayed at the exhibition.
The uptake of the STEM courses has been improving, although have not reached the desired level. According to the 2017/18 University Placement report by the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Services (KUCCPS), of the 62, 851 placed students, 28,135 (45 %) were placed on STEM courses. About 32 percent of those placed under STEM courses were female.
Presently, 102 schools have been selected and are being transformed into STEM model schools that can be replicated across the country. A total of 326 teachers have been trained in STEM Education and schools supplied with equipment worth Sh 81 million. The Ministry has allocated Sh 1.3 billion towards training in STEM. The funds are disbursed by the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB).
YSK intends to rope in sponsors and this year, they have partnered with Safaricom, Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) and Strathmore Law School to create legal awareness n the field of intellectual property to safeguard the innovations of young innovators. Safaricom also gave a grant of Sh 25 million to visit 80 schools in 10 countries to sensitize others on STEM subjects.
The projects will be aligned with the Vision 2030 as well as the Jubilee government’s Big 4 Agenda.