How myth about girls in science can be reversed

WOMEN’s rights activists and development partners have been urged to support President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s initiative of equipping girls with quality education by embarking on programmes that inspire the group to study science subjects.

The government is currently implementing a programme that involves the construction of 26 secondary schools for girls across the country, aimed at addressing challenges facing   them in education including walking long distance to and from school.

An Adjunct Professor Verdiana Masanja from Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) said that although the participation of girls in STEMI carrier (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Innovation) is low compared to boys the situation can be changed through various interventions.

Masanja, who is a Professor of Mathematics, said that the President’s idea to construct girls secondary schools should be supported by ensuring the group is prepared to join the schools with qualifications that will enable them to excel in science subjects.

“There are various initiatives which are being undertaken to inspire girls to study Mathematics and other science subjects such as role modelling which are personal initiatives, projects being carried out by various academic institutions among others thus activists and development partners can also chip in to support the efforts,” Prof Masanja said.

The don was speaking on Friday during the commemoration of International Women’s Day organised by the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) in Dar es Salaam.

The national theme for this year’s commemoration is “Innovation and Technology Changes: A Catalyst for Gender Equality”.

She said the provision of fee free education   from pre primary school to advanced level of secondary education should be taken as an opportunity of preparing students to study science subjects from primary to secondary education.

She further explained that various studies have been conducted to find out why girls do not like to pursue STEMI carrier.

Prof Masanja detailed that one of the reason found out is self perception which makes them to question their Mathematics skills.

“This situation has developed in our environment where most people believe that Mathematics is the subject which can be handled by men… the society has also contributed to this misconception that technology is for men,” she said.

Prof Masanja also said that girls do not see women in the fields even through television programmes, in books and other platforms since they are very few, the field is dominated by men.

She noted that, even at home when there is something which needs to be repaired, a boy is given the opportunity to do so.

“This situation has led children to build the perception that these are for men and these are for women…we need to undo this,” she said.

She said media has a role to play in changing the situation such as preparing kids’ programmes which inspire girls’ children to study science subjects.

“There should be also programmes that enable children to make different things related to science which   stimulate them to join technology studies,” she said.

TGNP Board Chairperson   Gemma Akilimali said that despite this year’s commemoration theme providing an opportunity of recognising women and girls who have done wonders in the development of technology globally and Tanzania their presence in the field is still low.

She said statistics indicate that Tanzania has very few women who take part in Information, Communication Technology (ICT), in which only 25 per cent of women work in the field and only 10 per cent of female students acquire degree in Computer Science.

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