Making an impact through digital learning | Imperial News

ESE PhD student provides outreach activities for girls in STEM for 20 students in North East Nigeria.

To encourage the next generation of women in STEM, Zainab Titus has received funding from ESE to lead an awareness campaign as part of an initiative launched for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022.

Zainab’s idea was to organize a virtual outreach themed Digital Tools for Sustainable Geoscience that will expose students in Maiduguri, a city in northeastern Nigeria, to a plethora of digital learning resources and tools. . Having spent her early childhood in Maiduguri, Zainab worked there on previous projects providing emergency education aid to combat the increase in out-of-school children and female illiteracy, exacerbated by the Boko insurgency. . In September 2020, Zainab was awarded the Imperial College Professional Projects Fund to develop a project and working with the Integrated Women and Youth Empowerment Center (IWAYEC), a non-profit youth empowerment organization in northern Nigeria, to provide the first-ever mobile library to children in the IDP camp of Maiduguri.

With the world becoming highly technological and increasingly computerized, the knowledge gap between disadvantaged girls and privileged groups will only widen. Providing girls from disadvantaged societies with the right learning tools will enable them to thrive and contribute to the sustainable development of their local communities and the world at large. – Zainab Titus, PhD student in Earth sciences and engineering.

Participants with their teachers and in-person volunteers from IWAYEC and the University of Maiduguri
Participants with their teachers and in-person volunteers from IWAYEC and the University of Maiduguri

Ambition delivered

Girls from four local schools participated in the online sessions for two days in the summer of 2022. With support from the Department, Zainab planned and designed the program.

Course line showing activities and concepts taught during outreach
Course line showing activities and concepts taught during outreach

The event was a one-of-a-kind experience for students to learn how to use the internet for digital learning and how to write simple python codes. The girls also learned about geosciences and its different fields of application for sustainable development, and participated in a mini-hackathon where the winners received certificates and prizes.

Dr Rebecca Bell, Senior Lecturer at ESE and Co-Chair of the Athena Swan Committee, which supported the initiative, said: “Zainab’s inspiring and innovative outreach engagement shared engineering concepts and practices with young people who have some of the greatest barriers to accessing STEM. around the world. We are delighted to have been able to support Zainab in the realization of this program”.

Zainab Titus (on screen) with students
Zainab Titus (on screen) with students

The students come from backgrounds where levels of digital literacy are very low and girls are not always encouraged to continue their studies, especially in STEM subjects, but here had the opportunity to prepare to compete with the students of other companies. A feedback survey showed that 60% of girls agreed that they did not know how to use computers at the start of the event, but learned to operate one with confidence, use the internet responsibly and write simple codes in python.

During a mentoring session, the students asked the women on the panel to share their experiences on how they overcome challenges and break down barriers. The event served to inspire girls to push their limits and aspire for more, regardless of the socio-cultural issues facing girls’ education in their communities.

Students work together at the computer
Students during the mini-hackathon

To have an impact

Not only were the students impressed with the technical knowledge they learned during the session, Zainab received emails from some of the girls after the event thanking them for the impact the program had on them, and also expressing interest in further coaching/mentoring. . This confirms that the girls have continued to apply what they learned – creating and using an email account that they learned to do for the first time in the program.

One participant, Fatima, said, “Now I know a lot more about using computers than I didn’t know before. I also started teaching my younger kids how to write codes in python. I had wanted to be a doctor, but now I would like to be a programmer in the future. I also didn’t know geoscience, but now I learned what geoscience is and what STEM means. Girls should study geosciences. scientific subjects in order to be able to enter professions such as doctors, which is not only for boys but for men and women.”

Dr. Rebecca Bell (on screen) with students receiving certificates
Dr. Rebecca Bell (on screen) with hackathon winners receiving gifts and certificates

One of the teachers reported that after the event, his students’ knowledge of computers and their use increased. The girls now use computers during their practical lessons to try out things other than just typing in Microsoft Word.

Lasting change

The performance and enthusiasm of the students motivated Zainab to develop other sessions to ensure the sustainability of outreach. Zainab is working with ESE and IWAYEC on a mentorship program with one student from each participating school who excelled during the event and communicated their desire to learn. The four mentees will serve as “STEM ambassadors” who will continue to teach others in their schools and communities.

During the closing ceremony of the event, the girls, their teachers and directors expressed their gratitude to ESE, IWAYEC, University of Maiduguri and the incredible team of volunteers for the impact that they had on the lives of these young girls.

For Zainab and all those who contributed to this awareness, the impact of the event certainly confirms that: “The best way to justify the opportunities we have is to solve some of the most difficult challenges of our time in society” .

Thank you to all participants

ESE alumnus Emmanuel Ikehi worked with Zainab to lead and manage the distance learning sessions. ESE PhD students – Deborah Pelacani-Cruz, Saira Baharuddin, Harriet Dawson, Gabriela Salamao-Martins and Jumanah Alkubaisy helped develop learning materials/resources and contributed to mentorship sessions. Longtong Dafyak from the University of Nottingham and Hajara Kabeer from University College London, who participated in the mentoring sessions, offered valuable advice to the girls.

IWAYEC in Maiduguri, managed the operations and logistics of the event and ensured a smooth virtual learning experience.

The sensitization took place at the ICT Center of the University of Maiduguri and was supported by in-person volunteers from the University and other institutions.

Zainab is a PhD candidate in computational geosciences at ESE and seeks to apply data-driven methods to construct representative models of geological reservoirs. She is very passionate about inspiring young people into STEM careers and creating opportunities for people from disadvantaged societies to advance their academic and professional development.

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