Upon giving welcome remarks, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs, Distinguished Prof. Dennis Siginer noted that Girls Excelling in Mathematics and Science (GEMS), are the future of our country. He mentioned that GEMS are our nation’s pride, and they explains “ BIUST’s firm believe in greater possibilities to transform our country’s economy from heavy reliance on natural resources, to a knowledge-based economy, anchored on deep and sufficient competence in science and math.”
Siginer further noted that the GEMS@BIUST event comes against the backdrop of the nation’s deliberate decision to increase girls’ interest, competence, representation and participation in the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines and industries.
“We at BIUST are already playing our part in assisting our nation reach that imperative goal of letting every one of our qualifying citizens to reach their STEM dream and even exceed it, irrespective of their gender, background, or social standing. We do this by offering academic programs in specialized STEM disciplines and continue to explore ways by which more of the new forms of STEM disciplines can be offered here at a great saving to our country.” He said.
Siginer further noted that for the first time, our women faculty and staff have conceptualized, organized and staged the event of mentoring the best of our country’s young ladies in science and math. The BIUST academics have done this out of sheer benevolence, their public spirit, and a desire to supplement Government’s efforts and policies of actualizing and empowering all citizens wherever they are domiciled irrespective of creed, age, gender, and economic status.
For her part, the Guest Speaker, the Honorable Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Ms. Bogolo Joy Kenewendo purported that “our frontier of growth will come from innovation and technology and it is from the GEMS that we expect that frontier of growth.” The new Minister further noted that women are struggling with the diversification of the economy and sometimes owing to lack of education, the focus has been in some sectors and neglected science, innovation and technology. She explained that this has affected women’s productivity, she hoped that the next generation will see the rise of Botswana women partaking in the Forth Industrial Revolution, through STEM.
“You were brought here at BIUST because of the gender imbalances that exist in industry, but we are happy that in this particular event you will be able to push those boundaries and help us to build this industry and to diversify the economy.” She said.
When addressing the gap in women’s participation in innovation and development of the industries, Kenewendo noted that STEM industries are necessary for any economy that seeks to attract new trade and investments, to participate in Global trade and thus create technological products and services that are needed in today’s markets. It is in this regard that women in general capacitated and upskilled in STEM are vital for innovative capacity and global competitiveness hence it is vital that girls in this generation are empowered in order for them to exert themselves in STEM.
“It is not only for academics or educational institutions like BIUST; it is for all of us to be involved, including the business community to create a good ecosystem that work. To you GEMS, I congratulate you for having been selected to part of this program, this is your chance to interact, learn from one another and learn from the women that have walked this path before you.” She said.
For his part, the Director of Pre-University and Academic Programmes (PUAP), Dr. Haniso Motlhabane, noted that BIUST was established for a special purpose because the Government recognized the importance of Science and Technology in the economy. He further noted that BIUST was supposed to link itself directly to communities and the world to resolve human challenges.
He noted that BIUST has engagement programs such as the Student Role Modeling Program, where students from the Lotsane Senior Secondary School in Palapye interest in Mathematics and Science Subjects are stimulated. Added to that is the Designing and Manufacturing Competition, Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE), ICT Teachers Development Program, Science Circuses among others.
The students had an opportunity to tour the University facilities and laboratories to appreciate some of the projects done by BIUST Students, it is hoped the GEMS Mentors injected the right antidote to seed the future BIUST conceits in the region.