By Duncan Mlanjira
Most school girls in Malawi are not motivated enough to pursue careers in sciences because they do not have role models they can look up to to shape them plan their academic studies towards achieving that destiny.
This was echoed at the Malawi version of the Africa Science Week’s Next Einstein Forum (NEF)held at Lotus Hotel at Namiwawa in Blantyre — an initiative set by the African Institute of Mathematical Science (AIMS).
During panel discussions, the conference observed that for these girl students to realize their dreams to pursue careers in science subjects, they need to identify role model mentors available on the market, whether female or male.
It attracted the academia from Chancellor College, College of Medicine, the Polytechnic as well scientists from Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Malaria Research Project, among others — who presented inspirational and motivational science careers talk for the invited girl students from the colleges and two community Day secondary schools, Bangwe and Chirunga.
During the panel discussions, the girl participants were told that the science world has few women practitioners because most girls prefer less tasking subjects.
They were assured that with proper mentorship from some of the scientists they might relate with as role models, they can exude the right mentality and will that can motivate them to compete strongly with their male counterparts.
Deputy Dean of Faculty of Science at Chancellor College, Victoria Ndolo, said there is power in science since it is the backbone of every families’ daily activities.
“Science begins right in the kitchen, where women prepare their families’ meals using different ingredients — there is a lot of chemistry that is done in food preparation,” she said as a way of motivating the girls to think beyond the box.
“Together we can make ourselves more visible and in turn influence and inspire more women to try a shot at the science profession.
“We must encourage each other that we can make it as women so that we can pass on the baton to those coming behind us.
“We should have more mentors for our girls and not just in the laboratory but through those that are practising and this is why we are gathered here.”
Ndolo applauded Malawi’s Next Einstein Forum ambassador, Chikondi Shaba, who is also a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the Chancellor College, for being the right role model by organizing the event on behalf of the country.
“She is not only the pride of the Chancellor College, but she is also putting Malawi on the map,” Ndolo said.
In her speech, Shaba said Malawi has participated in Africa Science Week since its inception in 2017 and over 35 African countries are celebrating the maiden edition of the Next Einstein Forum.
She said they will also hold other conferences in Lilongwe, and Zomba, which include exhibitions from other science stakeholders.
Shaba said the idea to engage active students is aimed at imparting knowledge and skills to the youth in order to develop future and reliable scientists and technologists through different science activities.
The panelists all agreed that development is now going towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and it is imperative that this is introduced to girl students in order to make themselves more visible and be counted as worthy to be pursued.
Zomba-based Chirunga Community Day Secondary School science teacher, Chikondano Phanga, who accompanied her seven students, said they encourage and motivate girls to seriously consider sciences as their career plans.
“All the girls that are serious with sciences are closely mentored in order for them not to be discouraged and this conference, where they have rubbed shoulders with renowned scientists has really made them stay focused.
“We really thank the organisers for inviting us and we hope to have more of these so that our girl students should never give up in thinking of taking up science subjects as their career path,” she said.
The Next Einstein Forum has been coordinated across Africa since September and aims at reaching out to all 54 countries by 2020.
There is a invigorating drive in Africa and the world to shape career destinies and Malawi has joined the campaign.
Just last week, Plan International Malawi Mulanje programme area mobilized girls from four secondary schools and gave them an opportunity to visit various corporate companies and hospitality institutions in the district for career talks.
This was a continuation of the commemoration of the International Girl Child Day, which falls on November 11 that empowers school girls worldwide to pursue their dreams.
This is being done under the Plan International’s global theme of GirlsGet Equal campaign and Mulanje programme area’s them is Girls Takeover — as a drive to smash inequality power that exists between men and women.
This is one way of exposing and empowering the girls to appreciate what is in store for them as they pursue their preferred career dreams.
In groups, they visited Kara O Mula Country Lodge, Hapuwani Court, Mulanje Child Justice Court, First Capital Bank, National Bank of Malawi, Reunion Insurance, Youth Net and Counseling (Yoneco), the District Education Manager’s offices, the Magistrate Child Justice Court, Mzati TV and Radio, as well as Plan International Malawi’s Mulanje programme area’s offices among others.
One of the girl child, Tadala Kachinga, a Form 4 student Namphungo Community Day Secondary School, aspires to be a physical fitness trainer on top of the career path she will choose and she led an aerobics session at Hapuwani Village’s gym under the guidance of the gym’s trainer Elias Maluwa.
Maluwa was very inspired by the enthusiasm portrayed by Tadala, saying its very encouraging that she has decided to try a shot at physical fitness training, a career predominantly being done by men.
Yoneco’s core objective is to empower the girl child and most of the programme officers they interacted with were young women with the passion to enhance the girl child’s academic pursuits.
One of the girl aspires to become a journalist and she was taken to Mzati TV where she was part of the station’s opening session.
Most of them said what they immediately know are academic careers on offer if they are to go through public universities but they have been enlightened that there are so many vocational institutions offering skills that can help them sustain themselves to become self-reliant entrepreneurs.