What started as an idea conceived after a visit to physically challenged students in an integrated school turned to a project that bagged a prestigious United Nations award and scholarships to a university in Ukraine.
Two girls from Keriko Secondary School in Nakuru bagged this year’s UN Sustainable Development Goal award during the just-concluded Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Esther Amimo and Salome Njeri never imagined that a visit to Menengai Intergrated School could birth an idea that would put them on top of the world in an international contest judged by doctoral level experts.
“It started when we visited Menengai High School and realised the challenges both the students and teachers face, especially in learning sciences. In some topics, especially mathematics, the syllabus exempts them because some cannot measure distances or even simple calculations,” Njeri said.
The students then embarked on a project that simplify distances calculations and other Mathematics problems, something which they said, would also make learning easier.
When they pitched the idea to their teacher, Mr Peter Tabichi, who in March won the coveted Global Teacher Prize, he advised that they could present the project for the local science fair. From there, the sky was the limit for the two girls.
“It was not easy; it requires a lot of research. One has to understand what they really need to solve, work and understand the challenges of those people you need to help and make the project easy and friendly for them to adopt,” Esther adds.
When the project, dubbed Essameter (from the initials of the girls’ names), was feted among five projects to be presented at the national stage, the girls were elated. What had started as a noble idea has now won them an international award in a contest that was held in the US.
“The vetting was rigorous. We had to go through series of interviews by professors. At some point, they had to interview us separately to cross-check the facts of our research. We also had to explain everything on how we started from scratch,” Esther said.
The project received accolades for its outstanding research and perfect presentation by the students, which Mr Tabichi said propelled it to scooping the first ever UN Sustainable Development Goal award.
The project matched with the UN Sustainable Development Goal that seeks to transform the world for persons with disabilities.
Their head teacher, Mr Daniel Mwariri, said that for a project to be staged at a global competition, it requires a lot of effort.
“It was the first time we were representing the country. We were only five African countries and the only one from the East African region. The greatest lesson I learnt is that Kenyan students have the potential to come up with winning ideas that can be staged at a global level,” he said.
Most countries that were represented at the fete, he said, had invested a lot in their projects, supporting the schools, with a majority of the innovations coming from private schools.
“Most of those who dominate the global stage are heavily-funded projects, but simple projects too win because of the impact they have in society,” Mr Mwariri said.
He urged the government to boost funding of researchers in schools and help actualise their work to solve the current challenges in society.
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