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Curiosity and enthusiasm in the Mara!

Santiagos’s report from the pilot project STEM Without Borders. 

In mid-November 2022 two groups of EWB volunteers travelled to Kenya as part of the pilot project named STEM without borders (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The project is a collaboration between Engineers without Borders Norway (IUG) and The Scientist Factory (Forskerfabrikken).

Two different regions in Kenya 
The first group was made up of a teacher, Ida, and two engineers Amalie (Norconsult) and myself (Santiago from NGI). We travelled to the Masai Mara region to the Mara Girls Leadership School (MGLS), established by the Basecamp Foundation Kenya and supported by Strømmestiftelsen. While the second group went to Eco Moyo Education Center; a private school in Kilifi and a long-standing partner of IUG (group consisting of two engineers, Marley and Frida, and two teachers, Sigve and Stefan).  

Working with science teachers  
The STEM without borders project was of particular interest to me, mainly because I grew up in a third world country and attended public rural schools without access to neither the latest pedagogical, nor technological tools. The way of teaching, back home and back then, used to be: "repeat after me" and "don't you dare contradicting your teacher". 

We (Ida, Amelia and I) stayed for 10 days in and around the town of Talek working with science teachers from four different schools of the region. We had a busy schedule and were hands on the next day after arrival. We were discussing, with practical examples, the pedagogical advantages of letting students play while learning science topics. From exploding water, electricity, atoms, water sanitation, viruses and bacteria, to mathematics and cryptography were the subjects we playfully learned together with the teachers. Most days we had morning sessions, only with the teachers, and in the afternoon we were just helping observers, so the teachers could apply the freshly discussed lectures with the children of the MGLS school. 

Curiosity and enthusiasm! 
Even though we were planning to only stay at MGLS, which is a fascinating place where girls get a scholarship for learning while living there, the teachers from other schools (Talek, Molibany, Irvan and Loigero Primary) warmheartedly invited us to visit their institutes. We saw thousands of children attending to rudimentary and deprived schools, living together with dedicated and committed teachers that will give everything to make the most out of their children. To reach their schools, some children must walk kilometres amidst bad-tempered elephants or gangs of hungry hyenas that hide in the bushes. Children and teachers alike were welcoming and friendly and took the science lessons with curiosity and enthusiasm.  

We experienced first-hand the importance of education and inspiration, as after teaching in the rural schools several children came running to us saying: "I want to be scientist and engineer in the future!" This experience was unique, not only because of the fantastic landscapes and nature wonders of the Masai Mara region, but for the enthusiastic and devoted children, teachers, helpers and school directors we encountered at the Mara in Kenya. 

January 2023,
Santiago Quinteros

P.S. You can learn more about this exciting project the 9th of February, when we invite to the webinar: Digital Oppdragsrapport: STEM Without Borders - teacher training in Kenya.

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