African Schools Outreach Programme

IVVN Annual Report 2022

Previous section: Survey results   •    Report home    •    Next section: Fellowships

The activities of the IVVN's flagship outreach programme have continued to recover from Covid-19-related disruption over the past year. We look back at recent workshops in Kenya.

Scientific outreach activity in a school

About the IVVN African Schools Outreach Programme

The IVVN African Schools Outreach Programme focuses on promoting gender balance in veterinary vaccinology, one of the four work areas of the Network.

The programme equips a network of women African scientists with the knowledge and tools they need to host interactive workshops in their local schools, with the ultimate goal of inspiring young girls to be the next generation of scientists. Since its launch in Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia in 2019, the Programme has expanded to include instructors in South Africa, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Uganda.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme was #BreakTheBias, underlining the need for a gender-neutral world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. Such stereotypes are perpetuated in agricultural science by the relatively low representation of women – data collected by the International Food Policy Research Institute highlights that women in agricultural research in Africa represent just 24% of researchers on average.

The IVVN African Schools Outreach Programme challenges these stereotypes by giving the students in the workshops hands-on experience of scientific techniques and giving them the chance to interact with inspiring African women researchers. The workshops are accompanied by careers sessions, where the team discuss their work and how they became scientists.

The Programme was shortlisted for a Nature Research award in 2020. After a period of disruption because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the outreach workshops resumed last year, and activities continued in 2022.

Thanks to our IVVN African Schools Outreach Programme delivery partners for their support. These partners include African Women in Agricultural Research and Development, the Roslin Institute, the Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre, the International Livestock Research Institute, the Global Challenges Research Fund, the Scottish Funding Council, and the outreach team members’ institutes and universities. Visit our Outreach page for more information.

Team delivers workshops on Covid-19 vaccination at three schools in Kenya

The IVVN outreach team, working with members of Kenya's chapter of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (KeAWARD), has continued to sustain mentorship and role modelling activities to grow the number of high school girls pursuing science courses and future STEM careers.

In November 2021, the team visited two schools in Taita Taveta County and one school in Nairobi County, delivering the IVVN vaccination workshop to 195 students over three school visits.

On 4  November,  the IVVN-KeAWARD Outreach team visited Canon Kituri Secondary School in Taita Taveta County. At Canon Kituri Secondary School, the afternoon started with motivational and career guidance talks to the entire school of 805 students consisting of 354 girls and 451 boys. 52 students aged 15-19 years were then engaged in the experimental workshop on Covid-19 vaccination. During the workshop, students learn about the science of COVID-19, case numbers in Kenya and prevention using vaccination and other measures. They then learn how to use micropipettes and have the opportunity to perform a hands on experiment using their new skills.

Feedback collected from the Canon Kituri students indicated that they found the interaction to be rewarding, enjoyable, fun, inspiring, interesting, informative and exciting. A quarter found the exercise challenging. The favourite parts of the workshop included using pipettes and testing and analysing the samples. All the students agreed that women can be scientists, reported learning that vaccines are used to prevent animal and human diseases and that they would tell their families about the experience they had during the workshop. All of them indicated they could become scientists and one student commented:

I would like to thank the scientists and acknowledge the efforts of my school for bringing us scientists. I have really thought myself a lot of things and I now know that anybody can become a scientist. This session was really exciting. I know that YES I CAN.

Group photo of instructors

Two days later on 6 November, the team visited Mwakitawa Girls Secondary School in Taita County to deliver the interactive mock vaccination experiment to 80 girls aged 15-18 years old. Reflecting on the workshop, Mwakitawa girls said:

Thank you very much. You are really inspiring women.

My favourite part of the workshop is that I have to change my attitude that from today I will be an Agricultural Scientist. You have inspired me and I would like to join Nairobi University to improve my skills.

I really appreciate the doctors for their good job. It is inspiring and it has made me change my career to a vaccinologist. THANK YOU ALL!

On 27th November, the IVVN-KeAWARD Outreach team visited Loresho Secondary School, Nairobi where they delivered the interactive mock vaccinology experiment to 63 students.
Congratulations to the Kenyan Outreach Team for three fantastic engagements!

  • Dr Esther Kanduma (UoN/KeAWARD)
  • Dr Virginia Wangondu (UoN/KeAWARD)
  • Dr Felister Nzuve (UoN/KeAWARD)
  • Dr Dora Kilalo (UoN/KeAWARD)
  • Ms Susan Njuguini (National Museums of  Kenya/ KeAWARD)
  • Ms Celestine Makokha (KALRO)
  • Dr Esther Maina (UoN)

Kenyan Outreach Team celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science to acknowledge and celebrate the participation of women and girls in science.

To mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022, Dr Esther Kanduma and the IVVN-KeAWARD outreach team visited Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School in Nairobi to provide mentorship, advice on scientific careers and deliver the African Schools Outreach Programme interactive laboratory experiment.

The day began with the team of six, comprising four women scientists and two final year university students from University of Nairobi and Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), hosting a presentation on “Road to a successful science career: Tips from successful women scientists” to 880 girls aged between 14-18 years old and 12 teachers.

During the presentation, the scientists each shared their journeys to successful and enjoyable careers as biochemists, cancer geneticist, animal health scientist, microbiologist and biotechnologist. They gave guidance on successful study habits, creating a positive attitude and perception towards science subjects. The presentation ended up with an interactive question and answer session, with most of the questions focussing on science courses selections and pathway to science careers.

In the afternoon, the outreach team delivered the interactive vaccination workshop to 50 girls. During the workshop, the girls learned about important infectious diseases of humans and animals and the use of vaccines to control their spread. The emphasis was on the cause and control of COVID-19 infection and the practical steps to follow in the lab to test samples. They used harmless dyes to practice micropipetting then proceeded to screen mock human sera samples purportedly collected from people in their Sub-County.

Group photo of students

Reflecting on the experimental workshop, the girls said:

My thoughts on this workshop is that we should having one every weekend and I liked the experience. I felt like a scientist even though I learned that I have been a scientist all along. The experiment has motivated me to work towards being a scientist. I loved the experience. Science rocks!!

Today’s session was very interesting for me and I have learned new things and now I believe that women can be scientists.

After the experiment, Dr Kanduma narrated to the girls the story of More Milk Zuri?!, a comic developed by Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre, Roslin Institute and Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics & Health, that explores how genetics and biotechnology can be used to help an African cow called Zuri produce enough milk to feed her community. Copies of the comic were then distributed to the girls to read and share with their friends and family.

Congratulations to the Kenyan Outreach Team for hosting these inspiring activities to celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science and thank you to Dr Esther Kanduma for writing this article.