By James Mphande
The Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) on Tuesday, August 13, 2019, officially opened the fourth edition of the Girls Science Camp that has attracted over 120 secondary school students.
Guest of honour during the official opening ceremony Professor Address Malata, who is also Vice Chancellor for the university, told the girls to consider themselves lucky, hence the need to seize the opportunity.
Professor Malata said previous participants have had their educational lives changed for the better as they learnt that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects can also be done by girls.
“The fact that globally and in Malawi we have women who have studied and excelled in STEM means stories we hear that STEM subjects are for boys only are a lie. I want to assure you girls that you can be what you want in life, including making a career in the STEM field,” said Professor Malata who also shared her personal life stories with the girls.
The MUST Vice Chancellor said the university started the Girls Science Camp after noting that most girls in secondary school were shunning STEM subjects leading to low female enrolment for STEM related programmes in higher education institutions.
“At MUST, for example, when we selected our first group of students, we had just nine percent females and much as the figures have now gone up, they are still lower than those for boys. As such, through the Girls Science Camp we want to inspire and motivate these girls to love STEM subjects, enrol in STEM programmes in universities and make careers out of STEM related fields,” she said.
She said the camp only targets secondary school students but the problem starts in primary schools hence the need for other stakeholders to join in and bring interventions at primary school level and in communities.
“This is why I would like to thank the various organisations and individuals that have supported us financially and in kind and even those parents and organisations that have sponsored some girls to join the camp,” said Professor Malata.
Professor Malata also had some advice for the girls, encouraging them to be hard working and focused.
“Do not combine education with relationships because you will not succeed. The challenge is that the boy who is cheating that he loves you will desert you if you become pregnant. Today’s boys want educated women so as you go home with the pregnancy, he will be with another girl, maybe your own friend. If they go to university, they will find a girl there and you will lose out,” she advised, adding that once the girls get educated and find their dream jobs, men will always follow them and they will be spoilt for choice when it comes to getting a husband.
Gift Mawerenga, a former participant and now Chancellor College second year Actuarial Science student, shared her experiences with current team of participants.
“I came to the camp after writing my MSCE and I had only done well in Mathematics. I did not do well in the other sciences and for me that was it. I was not prepared to repeat but after the camp, the inspiration I got from the various activities and the motivational talks forced me to go back to school and in my second attempt I got distinctions in sciences and was later selected to Chancellor College where I am doing a science programme,” she said.
She advised the participants to have an open mind and be focused in whatever they do.
“Honestly speaking, the Girls Science Camp was a life changing experience for me. The camp does not force you to come to MUST, it inspires you to go for sciences and in my case, I ended up at Chancellor College while my roommate during the camp is here at MUST,” she said.
Among those that have supported the camp this year are Electricity Generation Company of Malawi (Egenco), Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera), ActionAid, Plan Malawi, Jesuit Refugee Services, UGI, FDH Bank, TNM, Toyota Malawi and National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST).