A Tamale-based civil society organisation, Savings and Development Dialogue (SDD Ghana), has awarded bursaries to 20 students pursuing various Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programmes in tertiary institutions across the country.
The beneficiaries who comprised 11 females and 9 males were selected by an independent panel made up of development professionals, academics, scientists and medical practitioners.
The awardees will be pursuing programmes in Medicine, Engineering, Medical Laboratory Science, Computer Science and Mathematics, among others.
According to the organisation, the support to the students at a maiden STEM convention was motivated by the fact that STEM education was a major driver in the transformation of the national economy.
The meeting was attended by policymakers, academics, students, non-governmental organisations, the public and the media.
The Board Chairman of SDD Ghana, Alhaji Sadat Salifu, said there was enough evidence that STEM education could play a significant role in overcoming development challenges.
He lamented that there was still low attainment of STEM in the country, especially in rural areas and among females.
Alhaji Salifu explained that SDD mobilised a network of friends and activists who believed in the STEM promise, and raised resources to offer the maiden bursaries.
“Our approach has demonstrated that it is possible to award bursaries based on merit without beneficiaries needing to be ‘connected’ to powerful people and other middlemen to win scholarships.
“We need to embrace actions that give equal opportunities to all if we are to make progress in dismantling inequality, injustice and discrimination,” he said.
He thanked the donors and friends of SDD for believing in the entity and the project.
Importance of STEM
The Lead Convener of SDD Ghana, Dr Alhassan Musah, said the organisation recognised the important role of STEM in a global economy that was increasingly becoming integrated and digitised. He said about GH¢35,000 was raised from friends and public-spirited people out of which GH¢33,000 was disbursed to the 20 beneficiaries out of 35 qualified applicants.
According to Dr Alhassan, SDD intends to upscale by reaching out to more individuals and corporate institutions, adding “we are very hopeful many will be willing to support a just cause that prioritises meritocracy”.
A Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Communication, Innovation and Technology at the University for Development Studies, Dr Eliasu Mumuni, who presented a paper on STEM promise, challenges and next steps, said less than 25 per cent of students pursuing higher education in African were into STEM-related fields.
He said in Ghana, only 30 per cent of students enrolled in tertiary institutions pursued STEM-related programmes as against 70 per cent in the humanities.
The Executive Director of RAINS, Mohammed Hardi Tijani, said there was power in local philanthropy to contribute to change and progress, and urged the awardees to focus on their studies to enable them to give back to society.
The Deputy Minister of Energy and MP for Karaga, Dr Mohamed Amin Adam, reiterated the government’s commitment to promoting STEM, saying “the difference between developed and underdeveloped countries is the science and technology gap.”
He commended SDD for this initiative and pledged to donate GH¢10,000 into the SDD STEM Fund.
One of the awardees, Priscilla Ayaaba Wintimah, who is pursuing a degree programme in Mining Engineering at the University of Mines and Technology, expressed appreciation to their benefactors and said the bursary would go a long way to support them in their education.