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Fara Bakare…teenage CEO takes gospel of STEM education to schools

By Chinonso Ihekire
18 September 2021   |   4:09 am
With the likes of Zuriel Oduwole, Anne-marie Imafidon and many others with similar legacies, it is no longer a rarity to see a teenage Nigerian becoming a successful societal change maker, though still astounding.

Fara Bakare (middle) with some group members of the Stem In Africa (SIA) engagement in Lagos. Photo: SIA

With the likes of Zuriel Oduwole, Anne-marie Imafidon and many others with similar legacies, it is no longer a rarity to see a teenage Nigerian becoming a successful societal change maker, though still astounding.

As the global drumbeats of advocacy roll in for an increase in STEM education, 17-year-old Fara Bakare has joined the band of impact makers driving change around this cause, debuting her own foundation, Stem In Africa (SIA), which focuses essentially on secondary school students.

Though currently in London where she schools, her heart at home, where her foundation continues to build awareness on her belief that STEM education is a necessity for the next generation of Nigerians, if any real progress is to be made in the country.

Recently, at the forum held for the International Day for Women and Girls in Science, in Lagos, many stakeholders confirmed that Nigeria is crawling on a relay race to achieve world-standard STEM education. Head of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Laboratory at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr Chika Yinka-Banjo, opined that the solutions to this not only lay with the government, but also with parents who should help their children seek education in STEM and nurture their talents.

Despite Nigeria’s myriad of hurdles in boosting STEM education – from an outdated educational syllabus, infrastructural and facility deficits, skilled manpower shortage, among others – the problem compounds with societal stereotypes that act as repellants to young girls nurturing career interests in STEM.

However, for Bakare, her dreams are bigger than the evident challenges. So, despite her lack of resources, the young whiz is making do with the networks in her reach, from human to computer-based.

“We don’t currently have a physical location; we all work remotely. One of our goals is to build a physical hub, in Lagos, from repackaged plastic bottles, by 2022. Yes, we can. I am very passionate about impacting students, because I see the potential that they have.”

With a female-dominated workforce of nine people, Fara’s foundation has begun its crusade with a physical one-day research workshop, with a host of other virtual engagements, among others.

“In summer of 2020, we had a conference. We hosted about 20 students from five communities, making a total of 100. Each community was assigned to a location for a research experiment and workshop training. It was a really fun thing. Going around all the different venues and seeing how these students were excited, being exposed for the first time to any form of experiment on this scale. We also have a mentorship programme where we meet monthly with the students to develop concepts that we created at the workshop. For example, one of our students is now taking the same training to her own school to inspire her schoolmates. When you see the impact, it is really memorable.”

The young girl also claims allegiance to eco-friendly methods, projecting to use solely sustainable methods in building her physical space, next year.

“We are very passionate about reducing the negative impact we have on the environment; we are also trying to promote recycling. From the beginning of this year, we launched a recycling programme, where we collect people’s used bottles and we are storing them for our building.

“We want the hub to have a science classroom and an IT engineering studio that would teach coding. The main aim of the hub is for research and experience. We want to provide students with the opportunity to research any idea they are interested in and develop themselves. We hope to collaborate with schools in Nigeria, to make their students come to the hub as part of an extra-curricular activity. We would have conference rooms and event rooms too.”

A chip off the old block, Fara Bakara takes after her mother Joke Bakare, Founder of pharmacy retail chain, MedPlus and vocal advocate for girl-child empowerment. According to her, her mother and relatives have also been a core support system to her.

At 17, Fara’s agenda for educational development is one that not just keeps her feeling alive, but keeps her awake at night in extensive research.

“Most of what I know are from things I research; the knowledge is already out there. I won’t be the first to build with plastic bottles; the information is on the Internet,” the young lady notes.

Besides her pro-developmental campaigns, Fara also nurses an ambition to become a pediatrician. Outside the medical field, she is also passionate about public speaking and community development work, with strong hopes to work with the United Nations in the future. For Fara, these are not just dreams; it is a lifestyle to her.

“I just really like doing active things. If I was not in STEM, I would be in fashion designing or modelling. I want to go into the creative industry. I kind of am confident about what I want to achieve and I am working towards it every day,” she notes.

And with SIA, she hopes that her ‘Fara effect’, which represents awareness and development in STEM education, would spread across fellow teenagers in the city.