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Let's encourage uptake of STEM subjects.

According to the World Economic Forum's 2018 Future of Jobs report, among the range of established roles that are set to experience increasing demand around the world in the next 10 years are data analysts and scientists, software and applications developers as well as e-commerce and social media specialists, roles that are significantly based on and enhanced by the use of technology.The report further finds extensive evidence of an accelerating demand for a variety of wholly new specialist roles related to understanding and leveraging the latest emerging technologies including AI and machine learning specialists, big data specialists, process automation experts, information security analysts, user experience and human-machine interaction designers, robotics engineers, and blockchain specialists.

If you critically analyse these roles, they all have a component of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) at the heart of their function. This goes further to show the critical position of STEM at the centre of Kenya's ability to attain her development aspirations as expounded in Vision 2030.Yet, Kenya, like most African countries, continues to face immense challenges in the field of STEM at all levels of education primary, secondary and tertiary level in terms of performance, enrolment and gender disparity.

Research into the declining quality of STEM across Africa has blamed this on various challenges such as poverty, inadequate funding, lack of interest from students, unqualified or untrained teachers, inadequate learning aids and incessant strikes or industrial actions.To address the gap and to prepare the continent for the future, stakeholders in the education sector must take urgent and decisive action to encourage the uptake of STEM subjects from an early age by showing students their significance and bright career prospects.

With key lessons from industrial and tech giants such as China, different sectors are now realigning themselves to emerging global trends here in Kenya and are likely to increase job opportunities offers to STEM students. SUSTAINABLE ECONOMYThe challenge now is for us to inspire students from a young age to pursue STEM oriented subjects with a sound purpose to reduce skill shortages in the future and help Kenya realise a sustainable economy.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, about 60 per cent of Kenya's population is under the age of 25, making it one of the most promising potential workforces.Promotion of STEM education is a much-needed initiative to encourage well-rounded education essential for Kenyan students and address the imbalance in our education systems.

High schools have a particular responsibility to introduce, inspire and encourage the youth to a range of possible career options.With such an opportunity, organisations in the technology space like ourselves are increasingly taking a leading role in the promotion of STEM education in Africa.

At Interswitch, we have taken up the challenge by unveiling InterswitchSPAK competition, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, which gives secondary schools in Kenya's 47 counties a chance to nominate their best six Form 3 STEM students. We have gone around schools across the country and the level of interest is encouraging.

These are not just the future scientists but the future of our thriving business community who will solve problems and sustain businesses that will grow the Kenyan and African economy at large.
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Publication:Daily Nation, Kenya (Nairobi, Kenya)
Geographic Code:6KENY
Date:Jun 21, 2019
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