True to commitment to drive change, cultivate innovation and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects in students from an early age, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) is headed in the right direction.
Multitudes of students from pre-schools, primary schools, junior secondary and senior secondary schools from around the country and villages surrounding Palapye thronged the BIUST main campus in Palapye during the week to take part in the 4th annual STEM festival held from the 17th to the 19th of April.
According to BIUST Director of Pre University Academic Programs Dr Haniso Motlhabane, BIUST’s broader view and philosophy is to drive Botswana’s socio-economic transformation from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based one and in order to achieve this, they have realised that one of the factors they need to work on is to instill a clarity of mind in parents by making them to realise the role played by science and technology in their everyday lives. “As soon as we have achieved that, it will be then easier to get parents to encourage their children to have interest and put more effort in STEM subjects,” said Motlhabane. He said once everyone has that emancipation of the mind then STEM subjects would enjoy the rightful following and publicity it deserves. Motlhabane noted that Botswana’s economy would make a breakthrough once young people realise the importance of studying science and mathematics
He further explained that the university has already started to mobilise students from an early age through a program called ‘Catching them Young’ which has so far been rolled out to two primary schools in the Palapye area. The two Primary schools are Serorome Primary School in Palapye and Manaledi Primary School in the Tswapong region. The latter gave a brilliant presentation of their innovation; the wonder box, during the first day of the STEM festival. The wonder box they explained is a power saving tool, which uses solar heat and could be used to cook food to perfection without the use of electricity and firewood.
Dr Motlhabane said ‘Catch them Young’ relies and takes advantage of the fact that kids when still young have an inert and heightened interest to learn and experiment hence they use this to their advantage. “When we provoke their self -belief and confidence and encourage them to learn at a young age, the possibility of them doing bigger things later in life is high,” he said.
What BIUST is currently doing according to Motlhabane, is to train Maths and science on enquiry based method- with the emphasis on changing the way teachers have been conducting their interactions with students and so far positive results have been recorded. “This project has been running for two years. We visit the two schools that we are involved with at least twice a term and although we cannot entirely take the credit, they have reported an improvement in Maths and science results,” he said.
Young 'catches' speak
The Patriot on Sunday spoke to students from Mothamo Junior Secondary School in Moiyabana a remote village in the rural Central district, who are taking French language as a subject. One of the students has designed a computer game which uses French as a medium of communication. He explained that after realizing that some of his collegues have difficulty in learning French he designed the game to assist them learn faster through playing the game. “I designed this game so that they can understand numbers in French better,” he said.
Their French teacher Boniswa Bayani expressed her appreciation for the role science has played in bridging the gap faced by students in far flung areas. She explained that the students were not even taking computer science as a subject but only had access to computers by being members of the school’s computer science club. “Even I was fascinated by the fact that although they spend little time in front of the computer, they managed to come with handy innovations like this game that even I as their French teacher wouldn’t have thought of,” she said.
Another project that caught our eyes was ‘the smart fire system’ designed by two former students of Seepapitso Senior Secondary school in Kanye, Bonno Tshwene and Reginald Itiseng. Itiseng explained that their project‘s main duty is to extinguish fire.
The system contains four circuits which detects fire and distinguish it and detects smoke inside the house and extracts it to the outside. The power supply cutting circuits to cut power supply flowing into the building in case of fire and the last circuits which open windows to improve air currents to provide for smooth extraction of smoke and also to provide emergency exits for occupants. “We want to grow this project and commercialise it first by targeting residential places,” said the young learner.
Many other projects were on display and students got to interact with their peers, potential investors and leaders of the industry.