Form Three students in both public and private secondary schools with a special interest in Science and Mathematics have a chance to compete with their peers across the country in a national competition that will see the winner receive a scholarship worth Kshs 1.5 million, a laptop, signage for their school while the first and second runners up will get Kshs 750,000 and Kshs 150,000 respectively and a laptop each.
The competition, dubbed InterswitchSPAK, was unveiled through a partnership between the Ministry of Education, UNESCO, NACOSTI, key stakeholders and electronic payments and commerce firm Interswitch. InterswitchSPAK competition gives secondary schools in the 47 counties a chance to nominate their best six Form 3 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) students for the competition. The students must be aged between 15 and 18 years of age at the time of submission.
(TOP: From left – Simon Lang’at, deputy director, NACOSTI; Dr. Alice Ochanda, UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa representative; Cynthia Kantai, regional head of Product Marketing, Interswitch East Africa and Cherry Eromosele, Group Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Interswitch).
The year-long programme targets to online-register at least 12,000 students across the country in a period of six weeks, followed by a national qualifying contest to be held in about 50 centers countrywide. This will help to determine the best 54 students who will proceed to the next round and feature in the InterswitchSPAK Kenya 1.0 – National TV Quiz show to determine the top nine STEM students in Kenya. The programme also includes a mentorship session (MasterClass) where top notch speakers will take turns to interact and share real-life experiences with the students thereby laying a foundation for a solid career in STEM fields for them.
The competition has been initiated amidst concerns that the quality of STEM education across Africa has steadily and gradually declined over the last few years. Research has blamed this on various challenges such as poverty, inadequate funding, lack of interest from students, unqualified/untrained teachers, inadequate learning aids and incessant strikes or industrial actions.
“Research has it that in the next 10 – 20 years, most of the jobs available will have STEM integrated into them. So, for us at Interswitch, we began to ask the question: is Kenya ready for this, is the African continent ready for this?” said Cherry Eromosele, Group Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Interswitch. “In answering this question, we realized that we must nurture and mold the students who are already studying STEM subjects, while also inspiring others to take up STEM subjects as they come of age.”
She explained that InterswitchSPAK provides a platform that is preparing and empowering the future Africa problem solvers. “These future scientists, we believe, will not only solve problems, they will build and sustain businesses that will grow the Kenyan and African economy at large,” she added.
Speaking at the event, NACOSTI Director General Dr. Moses Rugutt said the competition will be an annual event with a key message of raising the interest of students, parents, teachers and other key stakeholders in STEM education and its application in Kenya.
“The STEM programme will by increasing the number of students interested in STEM subjects address national development objectives and challenges that require scientific skills to resolve. On the other hand, students derive maximum benefit from their participation and meeting their counterparts from other countries. Such experiences are never in vain,” Rugutt said.
He welcomed the initiative noting that it will go a long way in helping the government bridge the existing STEM gap and help the country achieve its Vision 2030 economic blueprint. “The government is determined to reverse the negative trends through initiatives such as the InterswitchSPAK that will popularize STEM fields in our education system,” he said.
On her part, the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa representative, Dr. Alice Ochanda said that in promoting the various opportunities for sound education for the Kenyan students especially as it relates to STEM, InterswitchSPAK is being introduced predominantly for high school students to chart the ideal career path and drive them towards full optimization of their potential and fulfillment of their dreams (either as an inventor or entrepreneur), thereby making Kenya and the world at large a better place to live in.
“InterswitchSPAK is a unique concept developed with a mix of education, technology and entertainment, to identify, promote and ignite the right support and reward for STEM students/ stakeholders in Africa,” she said. “This competition is very inspirational and the ultimate tool for enhancing participation of young people in STEM education and application.”
Through InterswitchSPAK, Interswitch is collaborating with the Ministry of Education, UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, NACOSTI and other partners to establish a STEM Education programme that entails a national science competition for form 3 secondary school students between the ages of 15-18 years (from both public and private schools) in Kenya. This will be an annual event with a key message of revving up the interest of students; parents, teachers and other key stakeholders towards STEM education/application in Kenya.
The project is an annual (all-year-round) search/support across high schools (public and private) in Kenya with a key message of revving up the interest of students; parents, teachers and other key stakeholders towards STEM education/ application in Africa.
Founded in 2002, Interswitch facilitates the electronic circulation of money as well as the exchange of value between individuals and organizations on a timely and consistent basis. It has offices in Nigeria; Kenya; Gambia; Uganda and still expanding to other counties.