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It is highly important and imperative to involve women in nation building, allow them to feature in fields that are male-dominated and give them easy access to power as do their male counterparts. The world, and in fact Africa need more competent and core team of women founders with expertise, experience, and passion towards innovation. In order to introduce something new to the world of science and technology (innovation), Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education which involves professional development programs, hands-on practical training, project-based training, technovation challenges etc. should be emphasized. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is a discipline that has contributed immensely to technological innovation over the years and there is a need to get more potential individuals (especially including females) involved and trained. Apparently, there is no better time to promote that than now.
To start with, what is education and how is female education perceived in Africa? It’s often said that education is the bedrock of an individual’s social growth and development; an uneducated society is one where ineptitude and mediocrity, their negative effects such as inefficiency, low level of development, corruption etc. thrive. Education entails the mental and intellectual development of an individual into a sound and effective citizen and also the provision of equal educational opportunities for all citizens, (irrespective of their gender) at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, both inside and outside the formal school system. In Africa today, it’s all too common for girls to be excluded from formal education. Gender inequality persists in Sub-Saharan Africa to the detriment of girls and millions of children are still out of school, a majority of them being girls. Challenges ranging from socio-cultural, economic to political constitute major barriers to girl-child education in Africa. Consequently, women generally have made little or no impact on research, development or advancement in African economies, compared to their male counterparts. Poverty, unemployment, corruption, vast spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and other opportunistic diseases etc. still linger on in our society because sound and intellectually stable females are in their minority. The women-folk cannot possibly assist in nation building and innovation without achieving affordable formal education, especially succeeding in science and technology fields.
To get more African girls/women prospering in male-dominated careers and becoming community change agents, entrepreneurs, and impactful leaders, African countries and their governments need to come into the picture. Some core issues that need to be addressed here include provision of an affordable formal education for all and a conducive learning environment, cancellation of all forms of gender discrimination in all sectors of the economy, making all opportunities open to both genders without restricting the women folk, increasing the pipeline of African girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics related disciplines and to ensure that the talent is engaged in innovation.
The relevance of being versed in a Science,Technology, Engineering or Mathematics field cannot be overemphasized. For instance, mathematics, one of the core of the discipline, is very essential because it teaches logic and critical thinking, we use it in our everyday lives and it is core to a growing number of science and technology jobs of the 21st century; also, technology in our world of today, is the very core of our existence as it has been proven to solve many human problems, providing and improving solutions to daily life. In other words, technology is part of our life, as it has a great relevance to and positive impact on the society at large; technology and science also enable individuals to execute their plans once they have them e.g ability to develop web applications, versatility in programming skills etc. Hence, secondary schools and tertiary institutions should be equipped by the government with basic educational materials and facilities like computers and laboratory equipment and teachers should be trained from time to time so that their students can get first-hand expertise and knowledge from them. Also, government agencies, technology hubs, science laboratories etc. should offer qualified women of all ages an opportunity to experience, provide innovative working and learning environments and also a give them a chance to feature in places where they would be able to utilize their gained skills and put them into optimum use, thereby impacting the society.
As a society, we currently face a shortfall in teacher quality and quantity in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics fields generally and computer science specifically which are relevant fields in technological innovation. So, the government in order to help teachers and students succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, should organize outreach and mentoring programs & teacher training programs which would be an engaging rigorous teacher professional development model that will provide tools to empower secondary school teachers and their students and transform their classroom into a collaborative space where Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics content comes alive. Hands-on practical learning away from the blackboard and Africa-focused integrated curriculum that helps teachers break away from memorization methodologies should be emphasized. In other words, capacity building of Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Science and other professional fields that enhances technological innovation should be reinforced in African countries and new skills and teaching methods should be incorporated. These would go a long way in impacting students positively and helping them succeed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. However, the aforementioned should not be done leaving female teachers and students out or involving any form of gender marginalization, because for the women-folk to effectively give back to the society, they have to be carried along and allowed to show their potentials.
As a matter of fact, it is easier for the girl child to multitask, think faster and be broad-minded. In light of this, intellectual individuals that are interested in and capable of getting more women involved in technology and innovation can easily establish Non-governmental organizations with the sole aim of empowering girls by inculcating in them the sense of participation and contribution to problem solving, entrepreneurship, technology innovation and economic development in their communities. Such organizations would work to ensure that in the next decade, women innovators in technology will have as much access and bring as much solutions to global challenges as their male counterparts, putting in mind that women are no second class, not less smart and do not require any other skill different from what the men require. Therefore, Africa needs more organizations like Unoma Okorafor’s WAAW (Working to Advance African Women) foundation, Oreoluwa Somolu’s W.TEC (Women’s Technological Empowerment Centre), Ethel Coffie’s Women in Tech Africa, just to mention but a few.
In reference to the Great Napoleon’s quote – ‘Give me a few educated mothers; I shall give you a heroic race’ – it is therefore not inappropriate to conclude that a country can achieve great heights with only men featuring in its many sectors but will get to its peak with the helping hands of women and that it is apparent that our societies will not only easily establish social peace if there were more educated women in it, but also have a major breakthrough in technological innovation. Conclusively, educating African girls and making opportunies open to women in virtually all sectors of the economy will have a positive impact on the future of Africa and the World at large.