Rwanda has launched the first Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) center dubbed ‘STEMpower center’ that will help secondary and University students to promote practical learning and support innovation at the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology (UR-CST).
The established STEMpower center worth $100,000 aims at supporting STEM students to access the quality of STEM education at the UR-CST and neighboring secondary schools.
The center was established by STEM power, a non-profit organization based in the USA in partnership with the ministry of education and the Israeli Embassy in Rwanda.
It was founded by Mark Gelfand, a US-born Jewish, one decade ago, to help students in developing countries access quality STEM education.
The STEM power center inaugurated on 7 Friday, is also expected to teach students solving society challenges using technology through equipping them with hands-on lab-based education.
STEMpower center is composed of computers and electronic laboratories that will benefit secondary school students whose schools are located near UR-CST.
Students will be facilitated by laboratory technicians and trained University students.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Gaspard Twagirayezu, State Minister of Education for Secondary and Primary schools said that the center comes as a stepping stone to the country’s ambitions as far as STEM studies are concerned.
“This supports Rwanda’s strategy to strengthen capacity building in STEM at all levels of education. A center like this opens the door to young people who want to experiment, learn and create solutions using technology. It also bridges the gap of access to practical pieces of training that we still have in our schools and community,” Twagirayezu said.
He added that the center will be an important tool for the hands-on lessons in Physics and math lessons.
“Getting this facility will enable us to put to practice what we learn in theory and see how to connect it with real life,” Fabrice Irankunda, a fourth-year student in Electronics at UR – College of Science and Technology who will be among facilitators at the center said.
Iradukunda said that the center has enough space and equipment that will facilitate students to think and come up with solutions depending on the challenges they see in communities.
The STEMpower centers find other government efforts to promote STEM studies including establishing coding academies and building school labs in each school across the country.
According to data released by the Higher Education Council (HEC), 64.4% of the 9,968 students who qualified for government scholarships for the academic year 2019- 2020 pursued STEM courses.
According to Dr. Ron Adam, the Ambassador of Israel to Rwanda, a country can hardly develop when quality education is not prioritized.
“After looking at the positive outcomes of STEM centers established in different countries, I contacted the founder of STEMpower to bring the same initiative here because I strongly believe that when a country has quality education, development is inevitable,” Adam said.
Adam said that promoting quality education is one of the priorities of the Israel Embassy in Rwanda, and it aligns with the vision of Rwanda’s leadership.
STEM centers already exist in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, and Burundi.
Kidist Gebreamlak, Executive Director of STEMpower, said that there is a plan to set up three more STEM centers in Rwanda this year alone, and four more centers in coming years.