FESTIVAL RECORDS EXPONENTIAL GROWTH

The evolving Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Festival that was initiated locally by the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) a few years ago continues to propel the nation’s aspiration of a knowledge economy

The 2021 STEM Festival was held virtually alongside the National Science Week recently. The event was held under the theme, ‘Fuelling Socio-Economic Transformation through STEM and Innovation’.This event aims to celebrate STEM success stories across all fields in the country, foster interest in the subjects and pronounce the relevance of STEM in our everyday lives. The celebration seeks to stimulate on-going public dialogue and activities on STEM education, acknowledge challenges while also soliciting suggestions from the STEM ecosystem on potential solutions. It is a platform to inspire the next generation of STEM innovators and position Botswana where she can be a participant and not a spectator in the STEM race.

The National Science Week commemoration is informed by the United Nations (UN) Agenda 2030 and the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063. The initiative precipitates from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) initiative wherein the SADC Science and Technology Ministers (2008) resolved to commemorate the week once per annum. In 2016, BIUST organised the commemoration of the National Science Week on behalf of the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Science and Technology in Palapye which it blended with its annual STEM Festival given the affinity of the programmes and commonality of purpose.

BIUST has since then, in collaboration with the Department of Research, Science and Technology in the Ministry, organised this event in Goodhope in 2019, and another in 2020 through virtual mode given the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on movement and its other protocols. By it being held virtually, this year’s STEM Festival and National Science Week was a huge success in both international and national participation and reach. Vice-Chancellor, Professor Otlogetswe Totolo expressed delight at the growth, the wide participation and the rewards of the festival“I am proud to note the broad participation of our national STEM-oriented institutions, agencies, ministries and departments that have collectively created a STEM Movement to further the national aspiration
of a knowledge economy in ushering this event,” Prof Totolo said in his welcome remarks during the official opening of the event.

The Vice-Chancellor noted that it was undeniable that the world today views STEM education as a key driver to the socio-economic success and sustainability of the future. He said countries with
thriving economies today focus strongly on STEM and innovation. He made mention of the lifesaving innovations his institutions undertook recently because of STEM.Earlier in the year, BIUST along with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the United Nations Population Fund and AVY of the Netherlands, launched the Drones for Health pilot project whose aim is to improve the turn around time that medical supplies reach health facilities across the country.“As a country, we are generally concerned with the length of time it takes medical supplies to reach our health facilities
from where they are stored.

This has resulted in the deterioration of health conditions that could have been attended to earlier. The drones technology, for most of my age, was unthinkable as we were growing up. It is a whole new world, one far removed from one that we grew up in. This is all a result of STEM and Innovation. As a country, we need to be in it, if we intend to be meaningful players in the global economy,” he said.In closing the Vice-Chancellor said the main goal of the National Science Week and STEM Festival 2021 was to celebrate STEM success stories across all fields in the country, to foster interest in the subjects and pronounce the relevance of STEM in everyday life. The event, he said, seeks to stimulate ongoing public dialogue and activities on STEM education, acknowledge challenges while also soliciting suggestions from the STEM ecosystem on potential solutions.

“The main aim is to inspire the next generation of STEM innovators and position Botswana where she can be a participant and not a spectator in the STEM race.” The objectives of the National Science Week and STEM Festival include, interalia, provision of a platform to celebrate, share the excitement and showcase STEM innovations from the ecosystem (learners, communities, industry, government and universities); raising awareness, appreciation and understanding of the significance of STEM to Botswana’s national economic transformation and sustainable development and promotion of Indigenous Knowledge in highlighting opportunities for its potential enhancement through STEM, Professor Totolo concluded.

 

Botswana International University of Science & Technology