The subject early child education in Nigeria has been an ongoing topic discussed among policy makers, government and donor agencies. According to statistics by A world at School Nigeria has the highest number of children out of formal educational system. It is estimated that of the 57 million children out of school globally, Nigeria accounts for over 10 million. Although there some improvements have been recorded in this statistic, majority of the children that fall within the non-attendees bracket are from the northern part of the country. The number of girls that fall within this bracket also very high.

According to UNICEF, girls constitute only about a third of the 54% of children that make the transition from primary to secondary schools in Nigeria. Unofficial statistics shows that only about 25% of graduates in STEM related disciplines in Nigeria are women in spite of the importance these disciplines have on the well being of the society particularly in addressing its unemployment, gender inequality and health issues such as polio and early child mortality.

To change this trend and attract girls to develop interest in education and for the society provide the necessary support, there is need for a multi-dimensional advocacy at all levels. It is a known fact and as the saying goes that – Educating a girl, is educating the family. To achieve the desired sustainable development target for gender equality more needs to be done at all levels.

Having a STEM career allows one to have a positive impact on both people and the environment. Everything that we take for granted in our everyday lives, including the microwaves in our kitchens, the chairs we sit on at work and the medication we take, have all been designed, created and engineered by people working in STEM disciplines. Now imagine more women in STEM bringing more solutions to our everyday lives in the home, offices and the society in general.

Aisha Amoka at the Kaduna WinSTEM Meet up

Brainiacs STEM and Robotics aims to create a level playing field for women/girls to have the opportunity to air their views on the current challenges faced by women and girls in STEM in Nigeria. The initiative aims to support Women/Girls with basic information, bursary support, curriculum vitae writing clinics, interview tips, mentoring, internship opportunities and so much more.

After successive meet ups hosted at various parts of the country like Jos, Abuja and Lagos, WinSTEM by Brainiacs was hosted in Kaduna at Kaduna International School [KIS] on the 10th December, 2016 to provide an avenue for IT enthusiasts, women interested in STEM partake in discussions on STEM.

Cross-section of participants at Brainicas WinSTEM Kaduna Meet up

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce is very important to the development of our nation. STEM provides for innovative and global competitiveness, hence the need to encourage a diverse representation of both genders. Women/girls are underrepresented in these fields, why? Because

  1. In Nigeria, the girl child is typically seen as one who would end up in the kitchen
  2. Women hold a disproportionately low share of STEM undergraduate degrees, particularly in engineering
  3. Women with a STEM degree are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation; they are more likely to work in education or healthcare.

These are issues that WinSTEM by Brainiacs wishes to tackle extensively in Nigeria

As cited by one of our participants, Zainab Isa Sulaiman, Secretary Amana Welfare and Health Education initiative, she talked about sensitizing parents on allowing their female kids pursue their dreams. It has been noted that parents tend to guide their female wards towards non technical courses basically commercial, and arts courses thus creating a wide gap in the number of nurses, doctors required to meet global standards. She also advised media be used for sensitization such as radio adverts, dramas etc.

Zainab Isa Sulaiman, Secretary Amana Welfare and Health

She cited an example of having talks with the male parents in particular about their daughters studying medicine. This in regards to men in the northern part of not allowing their women attend hospitals for fear of being attended to by men. The irony is if no one allows his daughter to be a medical professional, then whose daughter will take up the challenge.

Elooghene Agha a Network Engineer with Keystone Bank who was our speaker at the event spoke on “Challenges and Opportunities for Women in STEM in Nigeria”. She spoke extensively on the lack of women in STEM jobs. She highlighted laziness, lack of support from the family and fear of stereotype as possible reasons for discouraging girls to take up the challenge. She encouraged women and girls who are into STEM to shun laziness and “put their back into it”.

                                                                Elooghene Agha a Network Engineer in Kaduna

Elo’ observed that being hardworking protects and encourages young ladies to want to pursue jobs in STEM. She also is advocating women and girls to be given equal opportunities and support STEM education and job opportunities. This will provide an enabling environment for ladies to join STEM nationwide. There several agencies and organizations such as Brainiacs STEM & Robotics that are encouraging and providing opportunities for women and girls to take up careers in STEM. She encouraged the network to seek for partnership and collaboration opportunities in order to expand the boundaries of the initiative.

The participants deliberated on the need to mentor the young ones, the youths and career women on enhancing their STEM career paths. This will be done through quarterly meet-ups, school visitations, volunteering tutoring and other exciting programs to enlighten not just on STEM but also Tech in our everyday life.

Participants were glad to have attended the Brainiacs STEM & Robotics event for Women in STEM. They agreed to be committed to sharing the good news about the Women in STEM Kaduna and agreed to participate in future events including advocacy visits, mentorship and inviting friends, family members and work colleagues to attend the next meet up schedule to take place on 25th March 1 2017. Venue for the meet up will communicated to all attendees and prospective new joiners.

If you are interested in any joining Brainiacs Women/Girls in STEM Network, you can visit our www.brainiacs.com.ng/WinSTEM, Instagram page @winstem_b or send us an email – WinSTEM@brainiacs.com.ng. Watch out for meet up listings coming to your city soon. For more on Brainiacs STEM & Robotics offerings, visit the corporate website – www.brainiacs.com.ng.

Written by Aisha Ohunene Amoka STEM Ambassador, Kaduna. You can follow Aisha on twitter @aeeshar_a

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