Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Five young Anambra girls from Regina Pacies Secondary School, Onitsha, in August last year, put Africa on the global technological map with their rare talent. They emerged tops in the World Technovation Challenge in the Silicon Valley, San Francisco, United States.
The team, led by Uchenna Onwuamaegbu Ugwu, defeated representatives of other technological giants, including the USA, Spain, Turkey, Uzbekistan and China, to clinch the gold medal and are now celebrated as Africa’s Golden Girls.
In the same vein, four boys from St. John’s Science and Technical College, Alor, in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State, in March this year, won the bronze medal at the International Festival of Engineering, Science and Technology, in Tunisia.
The foregoing no doubt showed that the Anambra State government’s drive to push science subjects to the fore has started yielding fruits.
Spurred by the achievements of Anambra State, the Ebonyi Transparency, Accountability, Network (ETAN), a group of professionals from the state, in conjunction with OPAS, a foundation in the United States, are taking a cue from the sister South-East state.
No fewer than 100 students selected from various secondary schools in Ebonyi were recently exposed to the basics and scope of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in a two-day special training, which held at AGON Place, along the Enugu-Abakaliki Expressway.
President of ETAN, Mr. Ikechukwu Okogwu, who was represented by the immediate past president, Mr. Eze Igwe, said the group came up with the programme because of the multiple benefits derivable from the STEM curriculum.
He said the recent success stories from Anambra State, where some students from the state broke world records by coming tops in different international competitions, was attributable to STEM. He stated that the group was determined to promote the curriculum in Ebonyi State so that the students could take advantage of the enormous benefits therein.
According to him, ETAN is a group of professionals from the state with almost 200 members, spanning different sectors of the economy, who are engaging government to insist on good governance, transparency and accountability in public office, especially in public administration.
He said: “We are insisting that the people of Ebonyi State deserve to get dividend from every government in power and not just getting dividend, but also being able to measure growth and development within the state.
“Now, because we are professionals, we are used to having milestones in terms of the achievements we record as individuals in our professional capacity.
“We want to bring that level of corporate governance into public office so that we can be a purpose and goal-oriented society. Now, because of that, ETAN adopted education as a major corporate social responsibility. And in the course of that, we have executed essay competitions. We are now introducing STEM to schools in Ebonyi State.”
He explained that the Ebonyi State Ministry of Education was formally informed and, through the group’s support, each senatorial zone of the state was represented at the programme with some teachers.
“Most importantly, we are delivering this programme in conjunction with a foundation in the US called OPAS Foundation. So, the guys you have seen in there are all the way from Florida. They are helping us to introduce STEM to our schools.
“Over time, we are going to even broaden it to train even more students, but our ambition is to have STEM entrenched in the school curriculum so that students from Ebonyi State do not feel disadvantaged when they go to the outside world and encounter people from other places.
“STEM has become the mainstay of academic curriculum in a lot of places and that is why you would have seen records being set by people from Anambra State, with students going abroad to represent Nigeria in STEM-related competitions and coming first and putting their state on the world map.
“We also hope that, with time, Ebonyi State will also be seen in that light as a technologically-advanced state that is pushing for excellence by adopting state-of-the-art and contemporary curriculum to improve education within the state.
“We also want to grow our education profile. Most people refer to us as the educationally disadvantaged part of southern Nigeria but we have seen that we are also doing very well in WAEC.
“We want to see that the kinds of products that our schools churn out from the state are highly competitive and highly productive human resources. That’s in a nutshell what we are trying to do. We are starting something that will have multiplier effects on our education system and we hope that government will embrace it.
“Before we conceived this idea, we had an interaction with government but we are doing a test-run and then, with the success we will record, the government might decide to invest fully in this kind of project to benefit the generality of the schools in Ebonyi State,” Igwe enthused.
The director of OPAS Foundation, Roosevelt Leonard, explained that the foundation was an organisation that introduces aviation and STEM to youths, women, and minorities through Aviation Career Education (ACE) academies, workshops, and training events.
He said that OPAS was poised to expose to today’s youth and multicultural communities refreshing opportunities in the mathematics, science and aviation sectors and would do their best to train students in Ebonyi States on the things they should know about STEM.
In the training, participants were exposed to the world of aviation, including avionics and other opportunities in the industry. They were given moulding blocks with which they built aircraft, while they also made miniature aircraft with paper.
In the area of medical sciences, a public health expert, president of the African Youth Initiative on Population, Health and Development (AfrYPoD), Dr. Laz Eze, talked to the children about what they needed to do to be players in the medical sector.
A contingent from Mgbom N’Achara Comprehensive Secondary School, Okposi, in Ohaozara Local Government Area, which was sponsored to the programme by their town union, expressed gratitude to the organisers and their benefactors for affording them the lifetime opportunity.
Speaking with Daily Sun, 14-year-old Master Obumneme Aja-Eze, a JSS 3 student of Federal Government College, Okposi, whose ambition is to become an engineer, said: “They taught us many things. I was thrilled when we were allowed to fly a drone. I also learnt about the career opportunities in aviation and that even if you studied medicine, you can still be an aviator.”
Also, a teacher from Ginger International School, Abakaliki, Judith Agwu, expressed her optimism that the training was going to impact on the students positively.
“With what they learnt from this programme, I can assure you that these students would never be the same again,” she said.