Introducing ‘Young Engineers’ Programme & How to Solve Uganda’s Job Crisis
By Arinaitwe Rugyendo
In March 2015, when Uganda was grappling with an 83% youth unemployment crisis, the United States was busy solving theirs through the ‘2015White House Science Fair.’
The fair took place on March 23, 2015 during which student winners of a broad range of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) competitions from across the country, were celebrated.
At around the same period, the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, was partially blaming the unemployment crisis on children who continue to pursue ‘wrong’ courses at the tertiary level of education.
By ‘wrong’ courses he meant the continued emphasis on subjects in the broad range of humanities and not the natural and physical sciences at college.
I partially agreed with him. There is no country anywhere on earth that has transformed without a robust and deliberate bias on science and technology. Africa is not doing this fast. To this, I return shortly.
Back in Washington, President Barrack Obama announced over $240 million in new private-sector commitments to inspire and prepare more girls and boys – especially those from underrepresented groups – to excel in STEM fields.
To make his commitment more focused, Obama started a campaigned dubbed ‘Educate to Innovate,’ which by close of the year had resulted in over $1 billion in financial and ‘in-kind’ support for STEM programs around the country.
At the 2015 White House Science Fair, “over 100 students from more than 30 states, representing more than 40 different STEM competitions and organizations that recognize the talents of America’s next generation of scientists, engineers, inventors, and innovators,” participated, a White House Press release indicated.
In all, 35 students exhibited their projects. The president personally viewed those projects, which ranged from breakthrough basic research to new inventions.
These were on average, 15 year olds! The entire Fair featured science educators and business leaders as the President focused his remarks on the importance of STEM education to the economic future of the United States.
This is when reality hit me. The next day on March 24, 2015, I decided to hit the popular search engine ‘Google,’ only to realize that all advancing countries such as the USA, China, Israel, Japan, UK, Canada, Italy, India, Germany, South Korea, Singapore and others in this category, had something in common:
Their education systems were steeped into STEM skills and principles. In Africa, there were only two serious countries- South Africa and Nigeria. The rest were in slumber land.
My interest took me to Israel; a country known for its robust innovation environment and a people obsessed with creativity and thinking big.
I sought to understand why such a small country was so advanced to the extent that it had the highest number of startups, especially in the field of innovation, than anywhere in the world. The other reason was that I felt I would pick something from them, something practical that would fundamentally change the way we teach science in Uganda.
My only disagreement with Museveni then, and I promised to return to this, was that in his quest for ‘scientificifying’ Uganda, he was preaching to a generation that cannot change course.
They are already ‘dead.’ The focus must be on the 5- 15 year olds in order to cause a holistic scientific revolution in Uganda in the next 20 years.
In Israel, I landed on a STEM programme called ‘e² Young Engineers,’ an educational enrichment programme designed and programmed in the country, constantly updated to reflect new trends in the field of technology, that is taking the globe by storm.
We intend to launch this programme in Uganda in January 2017 as a co-curricular activity in Ugandan schools especially those that are hosting underrepresented children, once all the statutory requirements have been fulfilled.
Research has shown that children on STEM programmes tend to appreciate and perform better in science and technology-related subjects than those who are not.
I intend to make the case that if we are going to fundamentally redirect the country on the path of Science, Technology and Innovations, we must start with the foundation (5 year olds) and grow it in STEM principles with a view to nurturing the next generation of scientists who will not have to run around doing menial jobs or even doing nothing as is the case today.
What Young Engineers, Kampala Uganda is Doing?
Young Engineers® Kampala Uganda is currently piloting in the Nakawa, Kiira, Ntinda, Bugolobi, Kiwatule and Naalya areas with a functional centre on Plot 1225, Naalya-Namugongo Road.
We intend to use our feedback to design a model that will spread around the country so that more children can be reached and modeled early enough to appreciate science and technology in their future careers so that they are not castigated for having done the ‘wrong’ courses.
Young Engineers® programs include after-school enrichment classes, pre-school classes, summer camps, birthday parties and special events where children are given an opportunity to LEARN while having FUN building with the world’s favorite building block – LEGO®! Our programs utilize an EDUTAINMENT (education + entertainment) approach, transforming the learning process into a game while introducing children to theoretical and practical knowledge in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Mathematics (STEM).
We will work with many schools and the Ministry of Education and Sports throughout the area and beyond to provide Ugandan children an opportunity to experience these wonderful programs first hand so they can operate on the same level as their counterparts in the West.
I have previously tried to explain a few details about this programme. However, I have since discovered that many parents and policy makers did not get wind of what I was saying.
Therefore, starting next week, I shall take you on a journey to discovering more about this programme, how it will change Uganda for good and specifically how your child can be part of it in order to become the next generation of scientist using the skills we shall impart on his/ her.
This is not about bouncing castles anymore. Let the kids play with us while they learn.
For more inquiries, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or strictly text/WhatsApp me on 0752 466 778