On the 11th February, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science will be celebrated. At APIE we support the staff and administration at Umubano Primary School (UPS) to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to all students in line with Rwanda’s new competence-based curriculum. Rwanda’s Ministry of Education has reported that the number of female students studying STEM subjects in schools is rising; in 2016, more girls chose to study sciences at upper secondary level than any other subject, and over 55% of the total number of students that chose sciences were female.
At APIE, we understand that this interest in science needs to be developed at a young age, during a student’s years at primary school. Another important factor is role models, and at UPS the students are all surrounded by positive female role models. One such role model is Emilie, a Nursery teaching assistant who is currently studying for a Finance Degree at the College of Business and Economics. At secondary school, Emilie focused her studies on mathematics, economics and computer science.
Why did you decide to focus on these subjects at secondary school?
I loved economics and computer science. I like computer science because it helps things to develop – things are easier with ICT as it can be used in all parts of life.
What do you want to do with your degree?
People in Rwanda still wonder if women can work in these fields. I want to show them that women can. Some people think that there are areas that women can’t reach and I want to show them that we can achieve anything we want to.
Why do you think it is important for girls to develop an interest in STEM subjects?
It is important because science involves many things. If girls study sciences it means we might end up with more women doctors. Girls will also have more of an understanding of what is happening to their bodies as they grow.
Why is it important to have women working in STEM roles?
It is very important. In the past, it was only men who took on these roles or enrolled in science courses. Even in my secondary class there were fewer girls than boys. It is important to have women in medical roles as women patients may not be comfortable telling men their problems and would feel freer to express themselves to a woman.
One girl who is inspired by the women she is surrounded by and wants to enter a STEM field in the future is Shella, a P6 student at UPS.
What do you enjoy about science lessons at UPS?
I enjoy learning about the human body. I have learned all about the heart and what it does.
Do you want to attend an upper secondary school that focuses on STEM subjects?
Yes, I want to attend FAWE Girls’ School (a secondary school in Kigali that focuses its curriculum on STEM). I want to meet and work with girls who are confident about themselves.
Do you want to work in a STEM area when you are older?
I want to be a doctor in the future. I want to be able to save lives and help people.
What do you think you will have to do to become a doctor?
I will have to work with my teachers to be good at sciences and mathematics. I am going to work hard to be the best doctor I can be.
We have no doubt that you will Shella!
The World Bank has named Rwanda as one of a few African countries who are leading the way in working to boost STEM education at tertiary level and vocational schools. APIE is working at the primary level to develop this interest early which will hopefully lead to even more girls in Rwanda entering these fields after their secondary education.
It is an exciting time for Rwanda as science, technology and innovation play an important part in the country’s Vision 2020, aimed at transforming Rwanda into a middle-income country where its citizens are healthier, educated and more prosperous. We are proud to be supporting this vision and look forward to seeing what the women and girls of Rwanda, like Emilie and Shella, will achieve in these areas in the near future.