They’re five Ugandan teenage girls living in a region recovering from violent conflict. They’re also engineers.
I was sitting in a classroom in Lira, Uganda, and couldn’t believe the level of student engagement that transpired. Light bulbs were going off across the room, and I was instantly convinced the next Einstein will be African.
As part of GlobalGiving’s Field Program, I was in Lira visiting Yiya Engineering Solutions, a GlobalGiving nonprofit partner on a mission to shift the education conversation in Uganda away from rote memorization and toward critical thinking and creative problem-solving.
The Yiya team uses STEM education to empower high school students living in post-conflict northern Uganda to be problem solvers and entrepreneurs. In Luganda, the word “yiya” means to innovate. And innovation is exactly what Yiya is bringing to the school curriculum in northern Uganda.
Yiya’s teaching methods center around project-based, student-centered learning tactics where students learn and apply engineering principles to solve problems in their communities such as access to a consistent supply of power. Yiya achieves this by training teachers to make their math and science lessons more engaging and more relevant to their students’ lives; and by partnering with schools to provide the labs and classrooms for the lessons to take place. So far, Yiya has partnered with six schools in Lira, and has trained 30 teachers to inspire 240 students to be engineers.
And now, I’d like you to introduce you to five unforgettable students who have graduated from Yiya’s one-year STEM education program:
1. Meet Rachel, a future architecture student.
Yiya’s program helped Rachel believe in herself and it also gave her the opportunity to learn about the sciences and technologies that provide light for a set period of time. Yiya inspired Rachel to study architecture at university.
2. Meet Generous, who uses her STEM education to help farmers.
Yiya encouraged Generous to pursue her interest in STEM education where she had the opportunity to learn about technologies, such as kerosene pesticides, that help farmers by eradicating pests. Generous wants to study food processing and technology at university.
3. Meet Patricia, who wants to study the mechanization of agriculture.
Yiya gave Patricia the confidence and determination she needed to go after what she wants, which is to be a scientist. One of the community-based engineering projects she enjoyed working on tackled the problem of bad smells in latrines that are caused by indigenous microorganisms. At university, Patricia wants to study agriculture and specialize in the mechanization of agriculture.
4. Meet Mercy, who learned she is just as smart as her brothers.
Not only did Yiya help Mercy overcome the social stigma of being less capable than her brothers, but Yiya also inspired her to mentor and empower younger schoolmates to have the courage and confidence to pursue their dreams. The community-based engineering project Mercy enjoyed working on the most was the hand sanitizer project. She created alternative hand sanitizers that are cheaper for her community and is currently selling them in the market. Mercy wants to study chemical engineering when she goes to university.
5. Meet Rebecca, whose STEM education has already brought her abroad.
Rebecca learned how to be creative at an early age, and she always enjoyed making connections and forming systems. In addition to Yiya’s program helping Rebecca improve her school grades, Yiya also provided her with the opportunity to travel to Kenya and attend a STEM exhibition in order to promote STEM education for girls. Rebecca also had the opportunity to demonstrate how the bicycle power charging system worked during the National Science and Innovation Competitions. She wants to study aerospace engineering when she goes to university.
You can support student-engineers in northern Uganda by donating to Yiya Engineering Solutions on GlobalGiving.
Find exactly what you're looking for in our Learn Library by searching for specific words or phrases related to the content you need.