One very glaring piece of information that research has revealed is that women’s economic empowerment, education, and involvement in civic and political life are all being affected by the gender digital divide to a large extent (UN Women). In extension, Nigerian women without digital technology are at a severe disadvantage due to limited access to digital technology. Men are largely referred to as ‘tech bros’, and very rarely would you hear a woman being referred to as a ‘tech sis’.
Although some efforts have been made towards achieving a change, there still remains a major gap as women are more technology users (still at a low rate) than developers. On average, only 22% of university graduates in engineering and technology are women, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Thus, a more intentional and hands-on approach needs to be adopted.
The STEMPOSIUM series, which began in July 2023 in different schools all over Nigeria, has the aim of contributing significantly to this approach. As earlier said in STEMPOSIUM SERIES I, the STEMPOSIUM series is a dynamism of STEM XX Nigeria focused more on hands-on training. However, every student that participated across major regions of Nigeria had mind-boggling sessions with the facilitators of this project. Mind-boggling because the facilitators ensured that they were enlightened about the importance and “urgency” of being interested in STEM fields. Thus, most of the students thought deeply about their choice of career paths and a change to include STEM given the opportunity.
One major hands-on experiment carried out in the course of the STEMPOSIUM series is the Walking on Water Experiment. This experiment clearly explains the concept of siphoning (moving liquid from one container to another). It gives a simple explanation that there are different molecular attractions; hence, liquids can stick together on another surface like a paper towel (used for the purpose of this experiment) and then be transported.
Interestingly, this experiment also defies the law of gravity and explains the osmosis and capillary action necessary for plant growth. The schoolgirls understood the mechanism behind watering just the soil, and its resultant effect is seen in how healthy or unhealthy a tree and its fruits are. This particular experiment and STEMPOSIUM series was carried out in different schools, including a teenage mothers school in Northern Nigeria called Government Girls Primary School, WEC, Minna, Niger State. Other schools where this walking on water experiment was carried out include Life Springs College, Akure; Fiwasaye Girl Grammar School, Akure; and Government Girls Day Science School, Minna, Niger State.
In the words of Precious, a junior secondary school 1 student at Life Springs College, Akure, “Gender is not a barrier, not to any occupation, and definitely not to STEM related fields.” In a patriarchal society like Nigeria, changing the status quo can be done with the right orientation, information, and training. The STEMPOSIUM series contributes to this status quo change with a generalized and wholesome curriculum for women’s involvement in STEM.
STEMposium series! Engineering STEM education in Nigeria!!!