Science subjects are deemed to be too difficult by female students. However, Mr Nzinyangwa Mcharo disputes this notion.
Mr Mcharo is the Academic Manager here at The School of St Jude. He begins the conversation by confirming that the overall number of girls enrolled at St Jude’s is over 60% as of July 2020.
“The enrolment is based on merits and not because of gender selection,” said Mr Mcharo.
Currently, most schools in Tanzania lack science teachers, particularly women, making science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education predominantly dominated by men.
One of Mr Mcharo’s initiatives as Academic Manager is to encourage more female students to opt for science subjects.
“Most of the time, it’s a social stigma that math and physics are hard subjects. However, I can tell you about my own experience; I think history is more difficult than mathematics. I believe that anyone can pass mathematics when they focus.”
“I believe that science is very easy, and it’s also about your life. When you study biology, you study about health. You study physics, you study about machines. You study chemistry, you study about chemicals, some of them used in our daily life like in the kitchen. So it really depends on how those subjects get taught and the student’s passions.”
Mr Mcharo also emphasised on the best way these science subjects are taught. “If you teach science only to get grades, students will get upset because they don’t see any relevance of the subject. However, if you link science with every-day life, there will be no reason why a student won’t opt for science subjects.”
Mr Mcharo and St Jude’s academic staff have been at the forefront of promoting female teachers in STEM education to increase the number of female staff and ultimately have role models for girls in science subjects.
“So, the first thing is to have role models, and this can only be done if we create them to influence female students to focus on STEM. In our approach to science, we have made some initiatives such as opening a girls’ school with fully-equipped science labs and providing full university scholarships through the Beyond St Jude’s program in the field of science with education.”
To Mr Mcharo, STEM defines the future for successful female students.
“If we can get our girls into these STEM careers – science, technology, engineering and mathematics, we will get role models. This will remove the bias and improve the wellbeing of our society.”
Herieth, a Class of 2018 alum, is a true inspiration to her fellow female students who would like to pursue science studies. Her academic achievements at St Jude’s earned her a full scholarship through the Beyond St Jude’s program to study Bachelor of Science with Education at the University Dar es Salaam – Mkwawa Campus in Iringa, Tanzania. She is the first St Jude’s graduate to be offered this scholarship, and after completion of her degree, there is a possibility that Herieth will be offered a job, here, at St Jude’s.
Since opening the girls’ secondary school, St Jude’s has seen a significant increase in the number of female students interested in studying science.
Aloyce, a Form 3 student at St Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School, is one of the students with a passion for science studies. She says her favourite subject is physics, “When I graduate, I want to become a medical scientist.” She adds that; “Science subjects are not as hard as most people portray them to be. I encourage girls to study science because anyone can do it.”