Secondary schools in the Central Region have emerged tops in the just-ended National Qualifying Test for the ongoing InterswitchSPAK STEM competition. Nyanza emerged second best, followed by Rift Valley, Western, Nairobi, Coast, Eastern and then North Eastern in that order.
The National Qualification Test marked the second phase of the competition and featured an hour-long examination in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The qualifying test will help to determine the best 54 students who will proceed to the next round of the InterswitchSPAK Kenya competition.
In total, 1,175 students from 37 counties across the country sat for the exams that took place on Saturday 25th May. 17-year old John Yoshi from Alliance Boys High School emerged the best student with 87 points (out of 100). He was followed by 16-year old Abigail Mukene from Alliance Girls High School who scored 84 points, tying with Natasha Nyambura Ngatia, 15, from Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls. Alex Wangara, 15, from Kagumo High scored 83 points emerging fourth, followed by Wilberforce Odiwour, 16, from Kanga High School.
Overall, 1,498 students from across the country registered for the competition with secondary schools in the Rift Valley registering the highest number of students at 372, followed by Nyanza (353), Central (213), Western (162), Eastern (139), Nairobi (139), Coast (114) and North Eastern (6).
The competition was launched in April and was open to form three students in both public and private secondary schools with a special interest in the STEM subjects. The competition will culminate with the winner receiving a scholarship worth Ksh. 1.5 million, a laptop, 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 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, and inadequate learning aids.
“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 Marketing Officer at Interswitch, when the competition was launched. “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.”
Founded in 2002, Interswitch is an Africa-focused organization that facilitates the electronic circulation of money as well as the exchange of value between individuals and organizations on a timely and consistent basis. It has offices in Nigeria; Kenya; Gambia; Uganda and still expanding to other counties.
Through InterswitchSPAK, Interswitch is collaborating with the Ministry of Education, UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, NACOSTI and other partners to establish a STEM Education programme that entails a national science competition for form 3 secondary school students between the ages of 15-18 years (from both public and private schools) in Kenya. This will be an annual event with a key message of revving up the interest of students; parents, teachers and other key stakeholders towards STEM education/application in Kenya.