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Seeing is believing

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It must have been a dream come true for 60 girl-students drawn from 12 Community Day Secondary Schools (CDSS) in Zomba District who set their feet on Chancellor College premises in April this year.

Not that the girls were at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, to claim their place after the announcement of Malawi School Certificate of Education examination results. The girls, drawn from remote secondary schools, were here to attend a week-long science camp which took place from April 16 to 21.

The girls science camp was organised by Science Technology Engineering Mathematic (Stem), a grouping of Chancellor College’s female science lecturers who collaborated with Family Health International (FHI 360), one of the organisations implementing the Dreams Innovation Challenge Project funded by the US Department of State through JSI Research and Training Institute.

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From the participants’ introductory remarks, one could decipher that most of the participants were discovering Zomba City for the first time. It was also clear, from their own testimonies, that while a good number of them had heard of Chancellor College, and that it was located in Zomba, a good number of them had never physically been there. But who could blame the girls?

Problem unpacked

According to Levis Eneya, Dean of Science in the Faculty of Science at Chancellor College, most girls have not been exposed to the beauty of science, hence the decision to organise a week-long science camp.

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Eneya observes that there is a misconception that science subjects are difficult, a development he attributed to lack of exposure.

“We should expose our girls, especially those learning in rural secondary schools, to a different environment for them to start appreciating that science subjects are for everyone,” Eneya says.

South West Eastern Education Division (SEED) Manager, Gregory Alufandika, describes the camp as timely.

He says the initiative would positively change girls’ attitudes towards science subjects.

Masauso Chiwamba, teacher at Chingale Secondary School, concurs with Alufandika on the issue of exposure.

He observes that some girl-students have difficulties with science subjects due to lack of exposure.

Chiwamba observes that secondary school girls can be targeted with various scholastic interventions such as school fees, the provision of uniforms and learning materials.

Halima Twabi, a Chancellor College-based young female lecturer in statistics, says the password to a girl’s success is being focused and having the ability to make the strategic decision to excel in life through education.

Sending a thief to catch a thief

In line with the slogan of the Girls Science week-long Conference, “I f she did, I can do it”, the young science lecturers showed that girls can do it by organising the camp and serving as resource persons.

“As young female scientists and lecturers, we are indeed role models. If we did it, secondary school girls can do it as well,” says another young female lecturer in statistics, Fiskani Kondowe.

During the week-long conference, participants were exposed to various aspects of science such as metrology, geography, human ecology, technology, family and consumer sciences and physics, including doing practical work in computer, biology and DNA laboratories.

FHI 36 0 Dre ams Innovation Challenge Gender Adviser, Innocent, Hauya, says FHI 360s integrated approach is designed to ensure that education, health, and economic drivers are addressed and strengthened.

“Time has come to do things differently and innovatively if we are to realise goals made in promoting education among girls. FHI 360 Dreams IC will continue to support and work closely with education stakeholders, including academic insti tutions and the private sector, to improve girls’ education in the districts of Zomba and Machinga,” Hauya says.

Sounding confident and calm, Virginia Chimombo, a Form four student at St Anthony CDSS, describes the experience as “an eyes opener”.

“I will live to cherish the girls’ science week which has changed my perception of life. I have acquired useful skills. I am able to open a computer and write a letter. Above all, I know what I need to do to realise my dream of becoming an achiever,” Chimombo says.

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