Visitations

Visitation by school children to the BIUST learning arenas

Schools visit the university teaching and learning arenas as a way of motivation. The programme gives them an opportunity to talk to lecturers and technicians on the subjects that were said to be for the most intelligent students. The programme is a result of the realization that there is phobia of the Science related subjects among the young and old. Thus a fewer number of learners opt to do it in schools limiting the numbers that could otherwise proceed on to pursue Science biased careers in the future. The participants in this programme are the school children.

For a long time there has been a decline in the performance of Mathematics and Science subjects in pre-tertiary schools leading to very few number of students proceeding on to tertiary for Mathematics and Science. It has also been established through reports from Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) and from TIMMS that the subject’s Science and Mathematics results have been declining. The reasons given in those reports point to lack of interest, that the teaching of the subjects in schools is boring and that they are taught in the most abstract format that is not easily understood by the learners. Thus the programme is geared towards creating interest in the subjects and demystifying mathematics and science.

The programme starts with the arrival in the morning of the visiting pre-university learners. They are then given a short presentation on what BIUST is and the two faculties introduced by the faculty managers. A motivational presentation is then given by one of the student representatives of the University after which the learners are taken on a tour of the teaching arenas of the University. During the tour the technicians and expert lecturers encourage the learners to work hard and to perform well in their studies. This is meant for the prospective students at the university. The presence of the technicians at their stations during this tour is vital in that they give expert information on what really goes on with the instruments and/or apparatus that the learners are shown. The evaluation is qualitative. The responses given by both the learners and the accompanying teachers gives an overall picture of how the programme went. At times the teachers write appreciation letters showing how the programme achieved what they wanted of it. The programme usually starts in the morning, and runs up to lunch hour and the visits increases during the school vacations.

The programme has attracted many schools. This is shown by the increase in the number of schools that visit the university; at times more than one school in a day especially during school holidays. The level of interest aroused in the learners, which is shown by the way the learners respond during and after the tour. The letters of appreciation the teachers write to BIUST to indicate their satisfaction with the programme.

Mentorship

This programme is about assisting the slow learners who find it difficult to grasp concepts taught by teachers. The programme has been motivated by the teachers of the concerned schools who feel that if slow learners are mentored and made to learn the concepts in a different way they may understand it better. The mentorship programme under the guidance of university students meets with pre university staff prior to their encounter with pre-university learners to make preparations on how to approach the mentorship.

Mathematics and Science concepts have been found to be too abstract for an average learner at pre university level to comprehend. This leads to fear and dislike of the subjects that bring about poor performance. The poor performance in the subjects dwindles the numbers of the prospective entrants for the Engineering and Sciences programmes at tertiary levels of education. Thus, it reduces the possibility of the country having more innovators. The programme aims at demystifying Science and Mathematics concepts so that even the slowest of the learners understand. The programmes objective is to use locally available, easily accessible materials to get the learners to understand the concepts.

The programme involves obtaining topics from the concerned schools and preparing materials to use to develop the concepts to be learned. The university students and staff do this at the preparation level. The pre-university learners to be assisted are selected by their teachers in the concerned schools and the names handed over to the university. Once preparation has been done, the university students then go to the schools to mentor the learners. The appropriate resources are often not easy to find and as such, locally available cheap materials are sourced which does the job just as well. The university students involved in collecting such materials and with the assistance from pre-university staff put together a prepared lesson for the school learners. The learners are grouped into small manageable numbers and always work as a team. The monitoring shall be done by the teachers of the learners in that they will during their normal testing and evaluation assess the mentored groups as well and be able to give feedback to the university. Every term, during which the schools are running, this programme is also on-going simultaneously. It is expected to improve the understanding of the concepts in the previously slow learners.

When the programme has achieved its goal, the expectations are that performance in the subject’s Mathematics and Science will improve. Interest in the subjects will increase and the learners will begin to like the subjects. The overall performance of the subjects Mathematics and Science in the school will show a significant rise.

Girls in Residence @ BIUST

  • Mentorship and motivational camp for passionate, female Form 4 students from around the country who have chosen to do Pure Sciences and would like to have a career in STEM related subjects.
  • The attraction and retention of women in STEM is critical to advancing the agenda of research and innovation. The Millennium Development Goals speak to a reduction in education gender disparity and to empowerment of women. Through influencing  and encouraging  young women, we would like to have a hand in increasing the participation of women in private and public decision-making
  • The program will be run jointly by female representatives from the PUAP directorate, academic staff and student services staff. The participants will be high school students (form 4).
  • The core issue is the lack of retention of female students in STEM subject related courses and subsequently in the workforce.
  • This project therefore aims to sensitize students on some of the difficulties that lie ahead and equip them with knowledge on how to overcome them. Critical to the success of the project is the availability of mentorship to address individual issues.
  • The objective of the project is to celebrate the choice made the young women to engage in high level STEM courses, make them aware of the broad career choices available to them as well as make them aware of the support services, mentorship and scholarships available to advance themselves.

Presentations & activities prepared by staff on;

  • Careers in STEM
  • Aptitude versus Attitude
  • Building a strong CV
  • Networking
  • Volunteering
  • Preparing for Leadership
  • Positive Self-Image & Confidence
  • Mentorship sessions
  • The project requires accommodation and meals for participants, interaction space with audiovisual equipment, stationary, branded merchandise and gift packs for participants.
  • The staff will be wholly responsible for the project and will allocate responsibility amongst themselves.
  • Critical Success Factors (What those factors/conditions are which should prevail in order for the programme /project to successfully yield positive results!
  • The project has to occur when both staff and participants are not constrained by their core responsibilities. An overlap of BIUST and secondary school holidays would be most ideal. Adequate sponsorship of the event will determine the depth and impact of the program. Take home tools provided in the gift packs will also be determined by the extent of funding

The project will occur once year, the academic staff members who agree to be mentors will report quarterly on the contact that they have had with their mentees. There will be voluntary prospective records kept of the participants’ academic progress through high school and on to university.

  • We endeavor to see a commitment to STEM through academic excellence and progression to STEM careers.
  • The project should not only reflect on the participants but also on the coordinators. The academic staff should over time also take on some of their advice and become STEM high flyers with diversification of their careers or progression to positions of leadership

Science Circus

Mathematics and Science are viewed as difficult and meant for a select few who are said to be too intelligent. This view is held even by the parents who learn that their child is doing the subjects at school make comments suggesting their child must be very bright to be able to do these subjects. They even go to the extent of declaring in front of their child that they themselves failed the said subjects and are not sure if their child will manage! This programme therefore is about demystifying this belief and showing both the young and the old that Science can be done and that in fact we do it all the time, we live with it – Inspiration. A team of demonstrators from pre-university prepares a circus of activities in Mathematics and Science.

The fear and/or phobia created by those who say that Mathematics and Science are difficult and can only be done by the most intelligent led to the putting together of such a programme to show that we do Science in our daily activities at home. The materials we use daily in the kitchen and around us in the fields obtained from around the household are actually what Science and Mathematics are all about. The aim of the programme is to develop interest and the love of the subject’s Mathematics and Science through use of demonstrations that show how Science works in our daily lives. The programme explains what goes on in Mathematics and Science in the simplest way and interesting manner.

The Science Circus is a collection of themed Science and Mathematics demonstrations presented in a fascinating way yet very educational in nature. Here concept development follows the activities and at each stage the observer’s knowledge is challenged. In some instances however, they are left to unravel the possible response for the action. The observer is made to anticipate the outcome of a certain act. Thus drawing their own hypothesis which when answered may or may not be what the observer expected! The involvement of the observer in the activities is critical; hands on and minds on. The flow of the demonstrations often encourages the observer to show how much he/she knows and thus the attraction to what is going on is large. The concept thus learned can never be forgotten. The resources used at times on their own are interesting to say the least and because they come from what the observer encounters on a daily basis it becomes easy to associate with. The demonstrator takes care of the flow of the show and at the same time manages the feelings and guides the thinking of the observer. The success of such demonstrations is measured through the response from the audience which at times comes as answers to questions asked or as actions as the demonstration progresses. The monitoring and evaluation of the programme is done through the feedback obtained verbally and sometimes written from the teachers in the schools and the comments made by the public whenever such shows are for them. These shows run for an hour in a school or public arenas.

The Science and Mathematics circuses have created a lot of interest in both the young and the old throughout the country to the extent that some schools have asked for the programme to be brought over to their schools every year. Some teachers have written to show how the programme has made their slow learners to improve. They have mentioned that some learners keep asking their teachers why they cannot teach Mathematics and Science through a circus of activities like the team from BIUST. Qualitatively therefore the programme has done what it set out to do: create interest in the learners.

Videoconferencing

Schools in the country are faced with the challenge of lack of resources such as laboratories in which Science is taught, materials and apparatus to explain Science concepts to the learners. Learners also have questions they would like to ask to better understand the concepts taught to them by their teachers. The solution to such challenges can be addressed from the university using the expertise here and the resources that the university has.

There is a challenge of underperformance in Mathematics and Science subjects in the country. The country is big in terms of topography and schools are scattered all over with vast distances to be traversed if one is to visit some of the schools around. The idea to videoconference thus becomes appropriate in that lecturers would not have to travel long distances and can fit in the assistance they are to offer to schools within their busy schedules of research and teaching.

In this programme learners are assisted from the university by the lecturers while they are in their schools or regions. Thus they do not have to come to the university and lecturers do not have to leave their work stations to go to schools. Videoconferencing is where the connections are done between the university and the schools or regional equipment. This is meant to make it possible for the learners to have a one-on-one discussion with lecturers. The equipment required is either the computers or the videoconferencing screens which will be connected through a signal to transmit both the sound and the picture. The aim being to interact with the learners and help them solve their Mathematical and Science challenges using the university expertise. Accountability here is both with the teachers in the schools to afford the learners a chance and get connected as well as with the lecturers to prepare for the learners. The technology used will also get the learners’ interest aroused to perform well in the Mathematics and Science subjects.

The responsiveness of the programme to the needs and challenges that are faced by the pre-university learners as well as the popularity that the programme will attract will form the indicators. The programme is meant to solve the learner’s challenges in Mathematics and Science on the spot as questions are being fielded and the lecturers are responding positively. The university ethos of it being a technology university would have been covered well in that technology will be used to solve community (schools) problems.

STEM Festival

The programme is about one celebrating their achievements by way of showcasing products and/or hard work – intellectually. The country has had its young and old brains coming up with innovations in a form of projects such as those shown during Mathematics and Science fairs (schools), as well as those done by individuals, example being the aeroplane project done in Kasane. Many such projects will be done and not shown to the world to solicit ideas to improve these into commodities that could go into industries and thus be developed into marketable products. The STEM festival is for researchers, innovators and the public both young and old.

Most young and old innovators have not had their innovations in a forum where they could be seen and share ideas as to how to improve them. The ideas are galore. Some have even been abandoned as a result of lack of promotional pedestal that can see these brains being encouraged to do more. Some school children’s ideas have come and set aside in a form of fair projects then left to gather dust! Projects such as that of the ‘Aeroplane’ have suffered due to lack of support because the innovator could not be assisted to obtain land and resources as well as partners to go into large scale production. The aim therefore is to bring all these innovators together at a place where they can be seen and celebrated possibly in the presence of would-be partners and investors in the industry. This would then be an opportune moment for them to discuss the ideas and most probably engage one another on how to proceed from there. Issues of intellectual property will be discussed and a way forward paved.

The activities involved in a STEM festival include:

(1) Seminar talks where researchers from all over the world present their papers on topical researched issues. These are done before an audience who then assist the researchers by way of asking constructive questions which informs the authors of the paper on what could have been missed during research.

(2) Exhibits; these are projects and products of one’s thoughts displayed for everyone to see. Here the exhibitor discusses his/her exhibits with the visitors and at the same time more ideas emanate on how to improve the project to a level where it can then be produced in the industry.

(3) The circuses; these are done as entertainment but also as thought provoking exercise which attracts both young and old to not only observe but to ask questions and thus learn in the process. The festival is a celebration of achievements and thus interests the public to be part of the audience. The school learners partake in exhibits and shows while researchers present scholarly papers. The resources vary depending on the activities for example; the exhibits will need stalls with tables, chairs and display boards or cubicles while researched paper presentations will require public address system, multimedia projectors and human resource to direct the proceedings. There is an organizing committee comprising both the university workforce and individuals from outside the university. For the festival to bring about positive results the organization has to be done very well and on. All required resources need to be in placed well before or on the date of the festival. A well thought of program of events should be in place, the latest a day before the festival starts. All paper presenters, exhibitors and show presenters have to be aware of what is going to take place where, when and how.

Performance indicators include number of participants and percentage of exhibits on display versus those expected. Feedback given by the participants or public on the quality of papers presented and exhibits as well as shows staged.