Science scheme expected to spur innovation

A student of Bethlehem Senior School explains her project to Ireland Ambassador to Kenya Vincent O’Neill during the BLAZE Safaricom Young Scientists Kenya launch at the Centre for Mathematics Science & Technology in Africa in Karen on July 5, 2017. YSK is expected to engage stakeholders to support innovations. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said his ministry fully supported the programme.
  • Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition was launched 55 years ago in Ireland.

Innovative youths now have a reason to smile, following the launch of the Young Scientists Kenya (YSK) programme by the government in collaboration with the Irish embassy.

The civil society, private organisations, top State officials and secondary school students took part in the event at Cemesta Centre, Nairobi.

Some projects for students from schools in Nairobi taking part in the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair were on display.

YSK is expected to engage stakeholders to support innovations in four areas; biological and ecological sciences; social and behavioural sciences; chemical and physical sciences; mathematics, science and technology.

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said his ministry fully supported the programme.

“Understanding the importance of science, improving the learning environment for science and giving incentives to children to engage with science are important to achieving the objectives for Kenya’s development, which are outlined in the Vision 2030 blueprint,” Dr Matiang’i said.

The ministry and Irish ambassador to Kenya Vincent O’Neill signed a deal to establish and develop policies and structures to pilot the scheme and amplify competition to a national event.

In the coming 12 months, YSK will be piloted in 10 counties. Every secondary school would be invited to submit proposals.

Shortlisted projects would then be exhibited at the annual National YSK fair.

Blaze Safaricom committed Sh20 million to support piloting of the programme.

Pangani Girls’ High School students Caroline Njeri and Salome Wambui said the programme would give young Kenyans a chance to showcase their creativity and scientific talent.

Participants said the achievement of Vision 2030 goals would be significantly dependent on science, technology and innovation.

While science, technology and innovation can provide a stimulation and a strong foundation on which to build a national innovation culture for research and development, the role of government and other strategic partners will include creating and enabling policy environment, mobilising resources, providing necessary infrastructure, mentorship and support to motivate teachers and students.

Overall, the effective development of a culture and motivated students with an interest in science, mathematics, engineering and technology would have enormous benefits for socio-economic transformation and environmental protection.

This will be reflected in the creation of a critical mass of educated and high skilled-labour force, which is crucial for stimulating research and development, attracting foreign investments and creating jobs.

Industrialist and philanthropist Manu Chandaria said he was supportive of the plan.

“YSK is important. Improving the quality of education in bench and social sciences at secondary level will create incentive for learning science and lead to a more innovative and skilled workforce,” Dr Chandaria said.

Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition was launched 55 years ago in Ireland.

It quickly got the attention of the government, third level institutes and private companies.

It has become the supreme national science event for secondary schools the European country.

YSTE’s great contribution to Ireland’s learning environment for science has conceived a culture in which children now want to learn the sciences not only for information but also for organising their ideas and propose solutions to complex problems.

Mr O’Neill talked about his country’s experience with YSTE.

“The exhibition has greatly contributed to the science learning environment and quality of teaching.

"It helps children ask questions and collect information. It also prepares them for higher education and the job market,” the diplomat said.

Young Scientists and Technology Kenya is a unique and premier plan that will involve public, private industry and State stakeholders.

It is hoped that sustained support for this project would result in the active engagement of young Kenyans in the search for solutions to problems that hinder development.

Talent potential for innovation exists in Kenya. All we need to do is give students the chance to develop their skills

Dr Desai is chairman of the Board of Young Scientists Kenya