By HENRY OWINO (Senior Science Correspondent)
Kenyans are known for their creative and inventive concepts when it comes to Science and Technology. Some of these innovations have solved many problems and spurred the world into a small global village.
This is evidently seen in information and communications technology (ICT) such as mobile money transactions. This innovation is alleged to have been invented by a young man from Kenya whose idea transformed the world.
The Safaricom M-Pesa platform, cashless transactions on mobile phone, commands a comfortable lead. Approximately 80 percent compared to any existing technology could be a brainchild of a young Kenyan.
It is for these reasons that Young Scientists Kenya (YSK) was formed among young secondary schools students in Kenya. However, this has been effort swayed by Irish Ambassador to Kenya, Her Excellency Ambassador Fionnuala Quinlan.
According to Ambassador Quinlan, Young Scientists Ireland (YSI) has been in existence for 55 years and has helped transform Ireland into a knowledge-based economy and a leader in innovation.
“We are delighted to share our experiences with Kenya, help embed STEM skills in schools and contribute to building the country’s vibrant innovation culture,” Ms Quinlan said.
According to Mr Collins Munene, YSK National Director, the model from the BT-Young Scientists & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) in Ireland together with YSK aims to transform Kenya through innovation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
It also seeks to tap into the wealth of talents in secondary schools by making STEM subjects accessible to all. The objective is to inspire leaners to take up Science subjects seriously, especially the STEM.
The other he said, help young people showcase their wealth of talents in Science, Technology and Innovation. Again it is a connectivity of STEM and practical work (commercialization) to the society.
Initially known as Science Congress, nowadays as Kenya Science and Engineering Fair (KSEF), it is now becoming popular as YSK Exhibition hence a Premier Science Competition. This is because it has become a key driver to innovation and socio-economic development in the country.
“Since the YSK formation two years ago, it has brought together learners to investigate theories, discover new technology and advance current knowledge through research and innovation,” Mr Menene asserted.
The YSK National Director hinted the association gives young students the opportunity to demonstrate that STEM subjects are not only interesting and exciting, but also easy.
“Students would have opportunity to participate in science learning experiences away from the classroom and to explore the unlimited potential of science,” Mr Munene explained.
The YSK in partnership with the Ministry of Education, The Embassy of Ireland and BLAZE by Safaricom among others to hold National Science and Technology Exhibition from 6-9 August, 2019 in Nairobi (KICC), Kenya. This year’s theme dubbed; “Making STEM Education Accessible to all”.
This would be the second edition of the National Science and Technology competition for secondary school students. Approximately 185 schools will participate, with 200 projects and over 500 students showcasing the products.
According to Prof George Magoha, Cabinet Secretary for Education, in a speech read by Dr Kevit Desai, PS, Ministry of Education, the national Exhibition is part of the YSK mandate to spur innovation among students in Kenya.
Prof Magoha said the effort complements that of the Ministry of Education, which holds the annual Secondary Schools Science Congress, now known as Kenya Science and Engineering Fair (KSEF).
“As a scientist, I am proud to be part of a program that exposes young Kenyans to the endless possibilities that science and innovation can open up for our country. I look forward to seeing the projects on display and catching up on the latest science concepts from budding scientists,” Prof Magoga said.
Dr Kevit Desai, PS Ministry of Education, State Department of Vocational and Technical Training and Chairperson of the YSK Board was the Chief Guest at the half-day YSK Media launch event held at Jamhuri High School, Nairobi.
Dr Desai said if the youth embrace Science, Technology and Innovation and connect with the STEM ecosystem together with outreach programme, achieving the Big 4 Agenda is possible.
“The outreach programme is crucial to achieving the government Big 4 Agenda which is only possible if the young scientists are committed to them,” Dr Desai challenged.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is also the YSK Patron, is expected to officiate the opening of the exhibition, alongside other dignitaries. There would be award ceremony on the final day 9th August with winners walking away with Ksh 100,000 and a trip to Ireland to participate in the BTYSTE in January 2020.
The first edition of the National Science and Technology competition held last year (2018) in Nairobi saw two students winning the science contest. Wilson Irungu and Abdulrahman Sheikh Ali from Nakuru High School emerged top with a revolutionary internet -based energy monitoring and audit system concept.
As a result of their victory, the two got a chance to fly on a fully paid trip to Ireland to participate in the BT-Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition between 9-12 January 2019.
Charles Kare, Director, Consumer Business Unit at Safaricom BLAZE has sponsored the high school outreach programme and national exhibition to a tune of Ksh 45milion in cash and kind. He added this is in line with Safaricom’s commitment to the sustainable development goals.
“Our continued investment in innovation and research is driven by the fact that as a telecommunication company, our growth and survival is primary based on those two things. By partnering with YSK, we aim to ease to quality education and make STM courses “cool” for young people to pursue,” Mr Kare said.