Over the last 5 years, I have increasingly been at the forefront of advocating for and encouraging girls to pursue STEM careers. As a teacher and tech specialist, I have seen the worrying number of girls and women both the tech and overall STEM careers. This article outlines my views and my belief in raising girls (young women) who are ambitious, hardworking and powerful.
Arts can lead you into Science
One thing that often confuses young people is that, when you are doing arts combination in A-level, then you can only pursue art/humanities programmes at university. This is not true, as there are very many neutral study programmes that are science-oriented. In Lira, I have sent many girls to study Diploma in Computer Science or Secretarial (Gulu University), Nursing (Lira School of Nursing), National Diploma in ICT (UTC Lira), Science Education and many others.
Diploma or Certificate is not a bad idea.
While at A-level, I normally encourage young people to aim for at least 2 principle passes so that they can go for straight degree programmes. However, like most people know, there are equally good practical (STEM) diploma programmes, which may be more marketable than theoretical degree programmes. What is important is continuing with education after A-level and get some qualification, or skills.
Girls have to study and be self-sufficient
When girls are growing up, they have all kinds of assumptions. That they will study, graduate, get married, get a job and the husband will take care of them. Our culture has coined that into the minds of girls, that someone will take care of them. Not bad, but there are many problems with that assumption. And for the boys that, they will study, get jobs and later on inherit what their fathers have. This also is not a good idea.
I encourage girls to always work hard, study hard, get some vital skills (home skills, people skills) and obtain the qualification-university or vocational. STEM careers still have few girls. Get a job or start a business. You have to start somewhere and work yourself up the ladder of life. Expect more from your own labour and effort, and less from others. Everybody should be a position to sustain themselves as an adult, even before you commit to issues such as marriage or other social responsibilities. Love, marriage, children will always find their way into your life and spice it even more.
Learn from your parents.
I always tell young people that the best lesson of life is the lives of your parents. What good things have your parents done? Where did they go wrong? What advice have you got from them? What good things can you learn from their lives? Every family and home has hundreds of lessons from which young people can learn from. Although their time and conditions were different, there are plenty of things anyone can learn from their parents-education, family life, business, farming, management, morals, connections etc.
Stay away from trouble and keep healthy
As a young person, you can sometimes feel the pressure to be successful, like others. In Ugandan standards, being successful means graduating, getting a job (or business), finding someone (falling in love and marriage), build a small house and buy a car. This is the illusion most people have as the definition of success. That is not the same for everyone, and the order of acquiring those things will be very different for most people. It is important for you to sperate having material things from happiness. It is what most times leads you into problems. You end up stealing, conning or robbing (the end justifies the means). The things you acquire in life (material things) should only be as a result of honest labour, effort and reward. Stay away from dubious activities.
Also, stay healthy and plan for the future. Especially for girls, stay away from relationships that put you in danger of getting HIV, abortions and GBV. No amount of money is worth putting yourself at risk. If you are already HIV+ or have other health complications, don’t lose hope.
Lastly, take care of those you care about you (family, friends). People live only once, but together you can enjoy the best of what life has to offer. I end with this quote from Buddha, saying “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”