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Nigeria and the Dilemma of STEM


Nigeria and the Dilemma of STEM




That's the number of researchers who are women the world over. But it gets worse, only 12% of national science academy members are women. As the world marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, our nation is faced with a defining question: where does Nigeria fit in the picture?


Nigeria, the most populous black nation on earth is not exempted from the issue of parity of women and girls in science. As Africa's most populous nation and home to over 200 million people, of which 49.47% are female, it has not dealt with the age-long disparity. But first off, let's examine science in Nigeria before delving into women and girls in science.


In September of 2020, the Federal Government unveiled a new National Policy on Science and Technology Education. The National Policy on Science and Technology Education (S&TE) was developed for inclusiveness and to enhance the growth of the sub-sector through the provision of a legal framework that guides the mobilization of appropriate interventions. The policy, developed in 2018 and aimed at enhancing skills in science and technology amongst students, has not lived up to the hype 4 years into effect. While the policy isn't new, the dustup drew attention to its effectiveness. Few are aware such a policy even exists; it falters in implementation. While the current administration understands the critical importance of science, research, and technical skills as drivers of national growth and development, the absence of a road map for implementation has slowed the pace of Nigeria’s quest for glory.


Per the policy, its goal is to produce the critical S&T workforce in Nigeria that can transform the nation's economic landscape into a world-class economy. And thematic areas of the policy include Agricultural Education, Health Education, Energy, Industrial Research, Development and Production, Environmental Science and Technology,

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and Emerging Technologies. Much of the thematic areas of said policy are tilted towards greener progressive innovation – which is where the world is headed – and kudos to the Federal Government for such an initiative. But, to make the national policy viable and achievable, a lot more is required than mere formulation. Perhaps it's time to consider a different tack.


Formulating good policies is akin to a puzzle piece, while the implementation of such policies is the whole puzzle. And much like solving a puzzle, we need all hands (and brains) on deck to solve our current dilemma of development and innovation, including women and girls. Involving women and girls should not be about closing the vacuum of fewer women and girls in STEM, but because they are capable of doing a better job and the country would progress faster with them onboard. Period.


"Investing in women is smart economics, and investing in girls, catching them upstream is even smarter economics".

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, WTO

The way forward


As history has shown time and again, innovation is a requisite for growth. Recognizing that our nation needs a national policy is a step in the right direction. The next step? Proper implementation. While implementing, the right course of action would be to involve women and girls in a deliberate effort to speed up innovation. The African proverb he who trains a girl trains a nation rings true in this context.


The new policy harped on staff training, infrastructure standardization, and human resource; all of which are noteworthy parts of the implementation. It also states that only professionals would lead technical institutions henceforth—that too, is worthwhile. But extending further, I would suggest a deliberate course of plan that encourages more girls in science. Nigeria's education space is undergoing reforms with calls for an increasing need to align what is taught in schools with the in-demand skills employers want. As more investment is directed towards ensuring literacy in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields; a surefire way to hit the nail on the head is having women and girls at the heart of the policy.


This year's focus for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (IDWGIS) is the role they play in the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs), with emphasis on SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG17 (means of implementation), all of which, thankfully, aligns with the thematic areas of Nigeria's national policy on science. I totally agree with with Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Director-General, WTO when she said, "educating our young girls is the foundation for Nigeria's growth and development".


Samuel Adelakun is a freelance journalist and public policy enthusiast.





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