In the just-ended National Qualification Test for the ongoing InterswitchSPAK STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) competition, schools from the Central Region emerged tops, seconded by Nyanza then Rift Valley, Western, Nairobi, Coast, Eastern and then North Eastern in that order.
The National Qualifying Test marked the second phase of the competition and featured an hour-long examination in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The qualifying test will help to determine the best 54 students who will proceed to the next round of the InterswitchSPAK Kenya competition.
A total of 1,175 students from 37 counties across the country sat for the exams in which a 17-year old John Yoshi from Alliance High emerged overall winner with 87 points out of a possible 100, followed by two girls with equal points; Abigail Mukene from Alliance Girls and Natasha Nyambura Ngatia from Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls, both who had 84 points. Alex Wangara, from Kagumo High scored 83 points emerging fourth, then Wilberforce Odiwour, from Kanga High School.
Schools in the Rift Valley registered the highest number of students at 372, followed by Nyanza at 353 Central 213, Western 162, Eastern 139, Nairobi 139, Coast 114 and North Eastern 6. Overall, 1,498 students from across the country registered for the competition with secondary
The competition was launched in April and was open to form three students in both public and private secondary schools with a special interest in the STEM subjects and will culminate with the winner receiving a scholarship worth KES1.5million, a laptop, signage for their school while the 1st and 2nd runners up will get KES750,000 and KES150,000 respectively and a laptop each.
It was initiated amidst concerns that the quality of STEM education across Africa has steadily and gradually declined over the last few years. Research has blamed this on various challenges such as poverty, inadequate funding, lack of interest from students, unqualified/untrained teachers, inadequate learning aids and incessant strikes or industrial actions.
“Research has it that in the next 10 -20 years most of the jobs available will have STEM intergrated into them. So, for us at Interswitch, we began to ask the question: is Kenya ready for this, is the African continent ready for this?” said Cherry Eromosele, Group Chief Marketing Officer at Interswitch, when the competition was launched. Adding, “In answering this question, we realized that we must nurture and mold the students who are already studying STEM subjects, while also inspiring others to take up STEM subjects as they come of age.”
She explained that InterswitchSPAK provides a platform that is preparing and empowering the future Africa problem solvers. “These future scientists, we believe, will not only solve problems, they will build and sustain businesses that will grow the Kenyan and African economy at large,” she added.