Here is a newsletter I wrote about a new initiative Janet and I are working on: science clubs for girls in Cameroon. Stay tuned for more updates.
Fighting to get more Girls Interested in Technology in Cameroon: Say Goodbye to Science Labs, and Hello to “STEM box.”
Today technology is becoming more and more widespread by the minute, even in Cameroon, where the need for a well-trained generation of scientists is crucial. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or STEM skills are important for the new workforce in any growing economy around the world, but as this technology spreads, it is not necessarily representing the needs of a large portion of the global population: women. This means that a large portion of today’s and tomorrow’s technology for communication, transportation, and health (among many other domains) will be designed by men, unless we inspire more girls to study STEM topics now. “STEM box” and “STEM Your School” are projects that were started by Mrs. Bih Janet Shufor Fofang to increase the numbers of women in technology in Cameroon, and to give them more decision-making power in STEM. “STEM Your School intends to create a huge impact in building self-confidence of both the STEM female teacher and female student at the same time,” explains Mrs. Fofang. “Building a synergy of likeminded people within a given community can foster a culture of role modeling and mentorship that seem not to exist in our communities.”
Originally from Bamenda, in the North-West Region of Cameroon, Mrs. Fofang resides in Yaoundé where she is the founder of Tassah Academy, as well as an electrical engineering teacher in a government vocational school. After her visit to Silicon Valley in California in 2013 with the Tech Women program, Mrs. Fofang was able to bring home new and exciting technology and ideas for her students, which inspired her to start “STEM box” and “STEM Your School” in Cameroon. “I started the STEM program as a way to involve the school community and make them take ownership of the program,” Mrs. Fofang explains. “Having female role models in STEM can only make girls feel more comfortable and break stereotypes.”
Thanks to the generous support of WeTech (Women Enhancing Technology Africa) and IIE, Mrs. Fofang started the “STEM Your School” project in 2014 with other Tech Women from Cameroon, encouraging schools in Cameroon to create clubs to inspire girls to get interested in STEM. What started with a pilot project of 10 schools has expanded to 20 teachers reaching 120 girls across the country. The girls meet with their STEM trained teachers to learn more about science outside of the traditional class setting using hands-on approaches and critical thinking skills to appreciate STEM in new and exciting ways.
To help these clubs have more opportunities to use a more hands-on approach to science and to encourage more schools to start STEM clubs, Mrs. Fofang introduced STEM box to Cameroon, a project designed around multiple interactive science kits for students that can be used “on the go.” The kits range from electronic circuits with components to solar panels, and micro controllers to “Raspberry Pi’s,” a small unit used for programming. The kits are portable, and come with instructions on how to use them, allowing any young scientist to create their own scientific experiments without the need of a large expensive lab or equipment. This month the STEM boxes made national news, reaching 900 girls from 20 high schools in the West Region of Cameroon. The project ran a challenge on National TV that will be aired for four months on a program called “BrainBox”.
In the future, Mrs. Fofang hopes to expand the network of clubs and teachers involved in STEM in Cameroon, and add more visits to schools with her STEM boxes. “The STEM gap is extremely wide in Cameroon,” explains Mrs. Fofang. “When we see the tremendous opportunities STEM careers offer, women and girls are missing out. One group of people can come out of poverty through technology, and this group is women.”
To learn more about STEM Box and STEM Your School, contact Bih Janet Fofang Shufor at email@example.com