Front Row: The Vice Chancellor-Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (2nd R) and Principal CoBAMS-Prof. Eria Hisali (R) with the PI-Prof. Boksun Kim (3rd R), Co-PI-Dr. Cathy Ikiror Mbidde (L), Co-PI-Dr. Geremew Teklu (3rd L), Ms. Pippa Waller (4th L), officials and mentees at the launch of a mentorship program for female students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) on 6th April 2023 at CoBAMS, Makerere University.
The Vice Chancellor has today April 6, 2023 launched a mentorship program for female students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The mentorship is being carried out under the Innovations Hub. Speaking at the launch, the Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe congratulated the research team led by Prof. Boksun Kim from University of Plymouth in the UK for winning the grant. He congratulated the students upon being selected for mentorship.
He welcomed the mentorship program, saying it will help reduce disparities in STEM. He reiterated the university’s commitment to see more female enrollment in the university and their participation in the development of the country. The university, he said has been actively promoting gender inclusivity through the affirmative action which gives 1.5 points to female students when joining the university.
The VC said the country has had disparities not only STEM but also in education generally. This, he said, is a result of the colonial setting. “Looking back at independence, the country had only about 5 girl schools compared to 30 for boys,” Prof. Nawangwe said. “At Makerere we have made every effort to address this problem with the affirmative action since the 1990s. This has increased enrollment of girls from 10% in 1990 to 52% today.”
He said, 3-years ago, enrollment of girls in STEM at Makerere was at about 35% and this has grown to 42%.
“It is important to have a balance between men and women for organizations to function better with diversity. So we need to have a good balance even in our STEM areas, which are very crucial for the country’s development,” Prof. Nawangwe said. He thanked the Royal Academy of Engineering for funding the project.
The Principal, College of Business and Management Sciences (CoBAMS), Prof. Eria Hisali said the college was in the process of institutionalizing mentorship. The plan, the Principal said, would have both academic staff and senior administrative staff take on the role of mentoring and guiding the young students. He said it was important to mentor STEM students, not only because of the disparity in enrollment but also because of the potential of STEM in the transformation of the country.
Dr. Robinah Kulabako, in her keynote address advised the mentees against procrastination and asked them to be good stewards of their time. She advised them to be people of high integrity, reliable, and good team players. “We are training you to be great team players who must know that diversity is important for all teams,” she said.
She called on the mentees to embrace the opportunities given to them to learn something new. Failure, she said, is not the end of the line. She encouraged them to use failure as a springboard to be able to bounce back and make the best of their lives. Dr. Kulabako told the students to be determined because “where there is a will, there is a way.” She encouraged them to be hardworking, humble, respectful and resilient.
The project, mentoring future Women Graduates in STEM in Africa seeks to bridge the gender disparity in higher education and employment in STEM in Sub-Saharan Africa. The project will empower women graduates in STEM in Ethiopia and Uganda by training and mentoring them until December 2023. The program will benefit 20 female students in the final year of study in STEM related programs.
The students will be assigned to local and international career experts, who can act as mentors and role models. The students will get trainings on employability skills, empowering women and issues of sexual harassment at work. This will help with the professional and personal development of the students.
- Prof. Boksun Kim, University of Plymouth – UK (PI)
- Dr. Cathy Ikiror Mbidde, Makerere University (Co-PI)
- Dr. Geremew Teklu, Addis Ababa University of Science and Technology, Ethiopia