Women engineers seek support to increase STEM training for girl-child
The Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN) has implored government and other stakeholders in the profession to support initiatives aimed at increasing enrolment of females as engineers.
The President of the association, Mrs. Funmilola Ojelade made the call during a two-day webinar tagged, “Train the Trainers”, a capacity workshop for STEM teachers under the SheEngineers, Design It, Build It programme of APWEN.
The programme is supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering, United Kingdom through the Global Challenges Research Fund and the Institute of Engineering and Technology, UK.
Ojelade said such intervention would help to identify girls with interest in engineering, and incentivise them through the award of scholarships and improve engineering development in Nigeria.
She noted that over the years, a major obstacle to girls opting to study engineering had been the dislike for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
She explained that the association selected 60 trainers across the six-political zones consisting of its members from chapters, and some STEM teachers in the country.
According to her, the teachers are expected to return to their localities and replicate the knowledge to other teachers and the pupils.
Ojelade urged the participants to utilise the opportunity of the training and make a difference in engineering development in Nigeria.
“The trainers are to share knowledge, and train a minimum of 200 teachers in each geo-political zone and build capacity on how to mentor secondary school girls in STEM-related field”, she said.
The SheEngineer project director, and grant awardee, Dr. Felicia Agubata, who lamented that engineering has become a male-dominated profession especially, in Nigeria with women making only 13 per cent of the engineering workforce, stressed the need to encourage secondary school girls to follow their dreams and flairs with regards to the sciences and in overcoming the perceived gender role barriers.
Agubata said the training would assist the teachers to enlighten girls that they are intellectually capable for STEM study and career, and expose them to women who have succeeded in the field.
She also stated that APWEN is making efforts at redesigning the education system to enable authorities to introduce policy and incentives for women who want to go into STEM career, collect data relating to the gender gap and highlight the different experience of women working in STEM, find creative ways of encouraging STEM study and promote development.
Also speaking, the facilitator for the workshop, Dr. Evi Viza of the University of West Scotland, who took participants through steps on how to design solar robots, observed that lack of confidence and belief that boys are smarter than girls kept the girl-child back from participating in engineering and STEM-related study.
Viza, who is a specialist in mechanical and manufacturing engineering said the teachers needed to demystify such mindset in the pupils and advise them to imbibe a two-way approach to designing and interacting with them, as well as take into account, prior experiences of the pupils.
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