The Ministry of Education, Interswitch and UNESCO has launched a new National Science Competition dubbed InterswitchSPAK for STEM students in secondary schools.

Form three students in both public and private secondary schools with an interest in Science and Mathematics have a chance to take part in the competition. The winners will receive a scholarship worth Ksh. 1.5 million, a laptop, and signage for their school. The 1st and 2nd runners up will get Ksh. 750,000 and Ksh. 150,000 respectively and a laptop each.

The competition, dubbed InterswitchSPAK, is a partnership between the Ministry of Education, UNESCO, NACOSTI, and Interswitch. InterswitchSPAK competition will give secondary schools in the 47 counties in Kenya a chance to nominate their best six Form 3 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) students for the competition. The students must be aged between 15 and 18 years of age at the time of submission.

The year-long programme targets to online-register at least 12,000 students across the country in a period of six weeks. This will be followed by a national qualifying contest to be held in 50 centers countrywide. This will help to determine the best 54 students who will proceed to the next round and feature in the InterswitchSPAK Kenya 1.0 – National TV Quiz show to determine the top nine STEM students in Kenya. The programme also includes a mentorship session where speakers will take turns to interact and share real-life experiences with the students .

The competition has been initiated amidst concerns that the quality of STEM education across Africa has steadily and gradually declined over the last few years. Research has blamed this on various challenges such as poverty, inadequate funding, lack of interest from students, unqualified/untrained teachers, inadequate learning aids and incessant strikes or industrial actions.

“Research has it that in the next 10 -20 years most of the jobs available will have STEM integrated into them. So, for us at Interswitch, we began to ask the question: is Kenya ready for this, is the African continent ready for this? said Cherry Eromosele, Group Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Interswitch. “In answering this question, we realized that we must nurture and mold the students who are already studying STEM subjects, while also inspiring others to take up STEM subjects as they come of age.

She explained that InterswitchSPAK provides a platform that is preparing and empowering the future Africa problem solvers. “These future scientists, we believe, will not only solve problems, they will build and sustain businesses that will grow the Kenyan and African economy at large,” she added.