Malawi recently hosted a two week women in Science camp, where girls were encouraged to pursue challenging fields, which are mostly dominated by men.
This year’s STEAM or science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and mathematics brought together 100 female students from Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Liberia, Tanzania, Zambia and the United State.
Most women from Malawi, and beyond, have had challenges in pursuing an education and career in Science, Technology and Mathematics fields.
It is believed that these areas of study or career choice are for men and they are indeed dominated by men.
Despite this, women have made significant contributions to science from the earliest times.
Historians with an interest in Gender and Science have shed light on the scientific endeavours and accomplishments of women, the barriers they faced, and the strategies implemented to have their work accepted.
The historical, critical and sociological study of these issues has become an academic discipline in its own right.
Notable women include Marie Curie who was one of the first women to win a Nobel Prize, in 1903, and was the first person to win a second Nobel, in 1911.
But Curie was not the first female scientist. Many other brilliant, dedicated and determined women have pursued science over the years.
Another noteworthy woman is Grace Hopper. She was commissioned into the U.S. Navy Reserve early in World War II, after leaving her position as a college professor.
She worked as a computer scientist, greatly advancing computer programming languages, which made the machines far more versatile.
She received many military and academic honors throughout her career and continued to consult for computing companies until her death at age 85.
Over the years other women have also followed suit and tried their best to study science subjects.
Here in Malawi there are also some women that have taken up the challenge.
For instance, the first female Malawian pilots Captain Yolanda Kaunda, and Captain Lusekelo Mwenefumbo, have broken the status quo of male pilots in Malawi’s Aviation industry.
Another woman who is a role model for young girls is Address Malata, the Vice Chancellor for Malawi University of Science and Technology.
Recently Malawi hosted a two week women is Science Camp right here at MUST.
100 girls from Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Liberia, Tanzania, Zambia and the United States were trained by professionals from Science and Mathematics fields.
The 2017 WiSci Girls STEAM or science, technology, engineering, arts and design Camp, is a U.S. Department of State program with support from private sector partners.
Leland Melvin, a former NASA Astronaut and probably the first astronaut to ever visit Malawi, gave a talk to students in Blantyre and challenged girls to venture into these fields.
He believes most women are afraid to venture into Science, Technology and Mathematics fields
The astronaut however urges female students to believe in themselves and that through working hard they too can overcome many challenges.
Women rights activists believe that girls should be encouraged to venture in ‘male dominated’ fields of study at a young age, as opposed to when they are grown women.
The young girls that attended the camp said it was an amazing experience and they will take the skills they learned and use them in their innovations.
It is a fact that girls and women need to step out of their comfort zones and break social norms by participating in fields and industries that’s are normally occupied by men.
Hopefully with more events like the WiSci STEAM camps we will see this happen with girls from a young age.
Rihanna's Clara Lionel Foundation has teamed up with Ofo, a Beijing-based bike-share initiative, to help young girls in Malawi get to school.
"I'm so happy about the Clara Lionel Foundation's new partnership with ofo because it will help so many young people around the world receive a quality education, and also help the young girls of Malawi get to school safely, cutting down those very long walks they make to and from school all alone," Rihanna said in a statement.
The “1 KM Action” partnership has already sent its first set of bikes to Malawi and it will also fund scholarships for these female students through Rihanna's Global Scholarship Program.
Although 4.6 million children attend primary school in Malawi, only 8 percent complete secondary school. More girls drop out than boys due to a number of issues, transportation being one of them.
"We are delighted to work with Rihanna and the Clara Lionel Foundation on this innovative initiative as we are keen to help improve education accessibility for students living in poverty," ofo founder and CEO Dai Wei said in Tuesday's press release. “We believe in unlocking every corner in the world with equal access to education as well as with our bike-sharing scheme."
Rihanna visited Malawi earlier this year with the Global Partnership for Education in order to speak with students, educators, and government officials about the best way to "build a better educational future for Malawians."
In a previously released video, Rihanna shared footage of her trip and spoke about the experience. "It's such a pity that they have to drop out, because they are so smart," she said. "Everybody's learning together and learning at the same pace, it seems. It's sad that has to end for some of them, because they could probably do so much if they had the resources to continue and complete."
Providing young girls with a way to get to school quickly and safely is definitely a step in the right direction.
Members of the public are being encouraged to be development minded in a bid to sustain development in respective areas.
The sentiments follow a donation of iron sheets and bags of cement to Livalo primary school in Malawi’s central region district of Ntcheu by a former student.
Mathias Chatuluka who used to be a student at the primary school has used money over MK200, 000 to purchase materials required for construction.
The materials are expected to be used in constructing the schools headmaster’s office block.
Speaking to Capital FM, Chatuluka pointed out that development cannot happen if citizens are not giving back to the community they belong to.
He stressed that the citizenry should be in the forefront in developing their respective areas and not wait for donors.
"We are a change in development hence the need for us to be proactive in giving out to respective communities.
I am appealing to all bona-fide citizens of this village to come forward in developing the school and the area at large," explained Chatuluka.
Headmaster for the school hailed the donation stating will go a long way in address the current situation whereby the current block is small and dilapidated.
Dickson Kufankomwe then assured safety of the donated building materials stating will be used for intended purpose.
He therefore appealed for more support since the schools has also inadequate classroom blocks considering the huge number of learners enrolled at the school.
"At the moment we have over 1,200 learners enrolled at the school but the classroom blocks are not enough to accommodate them.
Therefore we ask people of goodwill to come a forth to help in address some of these challenges at the school, "He lamented.
Livalo primary school which has classes from standard 1 to 8 was established in 1967.
The school serves pupils from over 10 surrounding villages all under Senior chief Makwangwala in Ntcheu district.
Nigeria has the largest number of children in the world who are not being educated, the government has said.
Acknowledging the scale of the problem the education ministry's permanent secretary Adamu Hussaini said it was "sad to note" that Nigeria had 10.5 million children out of school.
This is the first time senior officials have admitted the size of the problem.
Cultural factors have been blamed but critics point to a lack of money going to publicly funded schools.
The UN's children's agency, Unicef, has been campaigning on this issue as well as a number of other groups.
On a visit to the country last week, education activist Malala Yousafzai met acting president Yemi Osinbajo and asked him to declare what she called "an education state of emergency in Nigeria".
Mr Hussaini said those most affected were girls, street children and the children of nomadic groups and added that economic prosperity can only be achieved with an "inclusive and functional education system".
But BBC Hausa editor Jimeh Saleh says the failure in the education system is due to a lack of government funding, rather than any cultural factors as suggested by the ministry.
"Government funded schools in Nigeria have practically collapsed over the years because of poor funding leaving children from poor homes with nowhere to go but the streets," he says.
Unicef estimates that 60% of Nigerian children not attending school live in the north of the country.
High enrollment rate of girls who were at risk of dropping-out of school has been registered for the past three years in Malawi’s central region district of Ntcheu.
The number has risen from 8992 learners in 2014 to 11,623 in 2017.
This follows phasing out of Keeping Girls in School (KGIS) project implemented by the CCAP of Blantyre Synod in the district,
The project was implemented with funding from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) through Save the Children.
All the 18 educational zones in the district benefited from the project which had two components of school experience targeting both primary and secondary learners as well as cash transfer targeting standard 7 and 8 learners.
Speaking to Capital FM, Ntcheu District Education Monitoring Information System Officer reveals that involvement of all education stakeholders has contributed to the rise in figures.
Godfrey Kayamba Nkadzanja stated the approach taken by the project to involve mother groups, parents and teachers leaves a lot to be desired since it has boosted status of girl’s education in the district.
Nkadzanja stressed that enrollment of boys and girls is always the same in lower classes but when it goes to higher classes the numbers tend to differ with most girls dropping-out.
“KGIS has managed to break the barriers that always resulted to girls in dropping-out of school when they are in senior classes than in junior classes.”
“And issues to do with menstrual periods, early marriages are among common challenges that affect girl’s education hence they prefer to drop out rather than stay in school,” Nkadzanja explained.
KGIS Cash Transfer Project Manager for Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM) an organization among consortium implementing the project expressed gratitude on the success registered in the district.
Geoffrey Kamanga said, “We faced a number of challenges in which some local leaders were not working hand in hand with structures we trained in a bid to sustain girls education.
“But after involving Traditional Chiefs, the situation improved and currently there is a good working relationship which is an achievement to the project.”
Kamanga then expressed hope that though the project is phasing out, trained structures will continue with the work on the ground so as to improve girl’s education in the country.
Apart from CRECCOM a consortium of Education Commission of Archdiocese of Lilongwe, CCAP Livingstonia Synod and FAWEMA were also implementing the project in other districts across the country.
These districts are Lilongwe, Salima and Mchinji in the central region and Karonga and Mzimba in northern region of Malawi respectively.
The project which had two components of school experience and cash transfer was targeting primary school girls from standard 7 and 8 as well as those in form 1 and 2 in secondary schools in all the targeted districts.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that cash transfer component which provide incentives to primary schools learners especially girls from standard 7-8 inform of money will continue up until August 2017.
Currently benefiting learners receives cash via Airtel Money platform amounting to MK8,000 per school term to use and buy basic necessities hence sustaining their education.
And apart from Ntcheu, Blantyre Synod was also implementing the project in Zomba, Mangochi, Chikhwawa and Nsanje district respectively.