One of the teams from Quality International School, Yaoundé, has been declared overall winner of the Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) Prize 2018. This was disclosed on Saturday 8th December, at the Happy Ending Ceremony, at S.T. Muna Foundation, Yaoundé. At the closing event, the best team was awarded a trophy, and a cheque of FCFA 1,500,000, to help them commence the implementation of their project, ‘Hemo Android Mobile Application.’
The 1st runners up from Government Bilingual High School (GBHS) Kumbo, Bamenda backed home FCFA 1,000,000, for their worthwhile project captioned ‘Fighting Deforestation by Substituting Wood with Mini Biogas Plants in Restaurants by 2019 in Kumbo, North West Region of Cameroon.’ The 2nd runners up, from ICT University, Yaoundé, returned with FCFA 750,000, by virtue of their project titled, ‘Mediquick: Mobile Application to Ease Access to Healthcare Information.’
The 4th and 5th prizes had with them a package of FCFA 500,000 each. These 2 prizes went to another team from Quality International School, Yaoundé, and to Complexe Scolaire Adventiste, Odza, Yaoundé, based on their respective projects on ‘E-Learning – Mobile Application’ and ‘The Catalytic Dry Reforming of Plastic Waste to Bio-Fuel.’
Top 5 finalists at Happy Ending Ceremony, awaiting proclamation of final results.
Saturday’s event came on the heels of about 8 months of preparation, culminating in a 3-day training camp prior to the awards. Sessions on career development, project writing, fundamentals of entrepreneurship, field visits, and more — featured on the menu. Certificates of participation were also handed to all 21 finalists. Besides, each finalist went home with an allowance of FCFA 25,000. Individual prizes were equally presented, like that of most dynamic participant (to Judithe Yametuh from GBHS Kumbo, Bamenda) and that of youngest participant, to the 10-year old Nora Akonjang (from Quality International School, Yaoundé).
The S.T. Muna Foundation, Yaoundé, which hosted the event brought together hundreds of STEM enthusiasts, local media houses, and other dignitaries across borders. Prominent were Tassah Academic Complex, Yaoundé (who displayed their robotics outdoors), Lydole (a musician and slam poet of international repute), Mrs. Kum Ursula (the impresario, and teacher by profession), and Sophie Ngassa Fon Nsoh (seasoned TechWoman, STEM advocate and brain behind Center for Youth Empowerment & Economic Development (CYEED)).
In her keynote discourse, Dr. Felicitas Atabong Mokom (Dean, School of Information Technology, Catholic University Institute Buea (CUIB)) was upbeat that 26 of the 30 countries worldwide with the lowest median age, were from Sub-Saharan Africa (including Cameroon (at 18.5years)). And thus a demographic dividend worth harnessing.
‘This means that we must prioritize the empowerment of our youth. If we are to advance this nation – this continent, we must engage them such that they discover and pursue their respective passions, culminating in them becoming the best version of themselves’, Dr. Atabong asserted.
She however regretted that Cameroon was ranked 111th out of 126 countries in the 2018 Global Innovation Index, and wondered whether that could not have been due to barriers instilled in the minds of youths regarding STEM education? As such, she urged educationists to present the subject in a way that inspires curiosity in the daily adventures which students/youths go through.
Acknowledging that it was rare to find a country nowadays with a national agenda, present or futuristic, that does not include objectives referring specifically to STEM initiatives, Dr. Atabong emphasized that, consensus holds that STEM was essential in finding solutions to the economic, social, and environmental challenges in today’s world.
Dr. Atabong concluded by admonishing that, ‘for those who began the journey [of STEM] or are contemplating doing so here in the future or in some similar venture — keep in mind as you navigate your chosen endeavour — [that] nothing in life is to be feared. It is to be understood. Solve a real problem, and the world is yours.’
Apologizing that the STEM Prize 2017 didn’t hold because the Anglophone Crisis exempted 2 Regions from participating due to restricted access to internet, Dr. Fuein Vera Kum (Economic policy Analyst at Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation — who spearheaded the STEM Prize 2018 project team) expressed immeasurable joy at the successful end of this year’s edition.
‘We are happy for these young Cameroonian minds because they have proven to us that they are innovative and [that] they are ready’, she revealed. ‘We are looking forward to the next edition in 2019 with so much hope,…joy, and…enthusiasm’, Dr. Fuein divulged.
One of the laureates of the 1st Prize, Forku Joyceline from Quality International School, was visibly very upbeat. ‘I am over-joyed [by this award] as our project seeks to link blood donors with people who are urgently in need of blood’, she stated.
Another finalist, from GBHS Kumbo (which won the 2nd Prize) was very emotional. Lenga Hope Bemsibom broke into inconsolable sobs. And gasping for breath, she could barely voice out a few words. ‘I’m v-e-r-y h-a-p-p-y t-h-a-t I w-o-n’, she whispered.
Christian Kouesso (3rd Prize winning-team member from ICT University) was very satisfied. ‘I am very happy to…[receive] this prize’, he said. ‘…technology is necessary to improve the economy of our country’, he added. ‘I thank…Denis & Lenora Foretia Foundation for such…initiative which will help us…start a company, legalize it and develop [our project]’, he mentioned.
The 1st edition of the STEM Prize Award in 2016 was won by students from CUIB, Buea (1st); Lycée de Zamengoue, Yaoundé (2nd); and Quality International School, Yaoundé (3rd).
It should be noted that the STEM Prize is the brain-child initiative of Dr. Denis Foretia and Mrs. Lenora Ebule, Co-Chairs of Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation, a Civil Society Organization in Yaoundé with the mission of ‘catalyzing Africa’s economic transformation: by focusing on social entrepreneurship, science and technology, innovation, public health, and the implementation of progressive policies that together create economic opportunities for all.’
Due to their unavoidable absence, Mrs. Lenora Ebule, addressed the finalists through a 5-minute video message, on behalf of the Co-Chairs and Board. ‘I wish I could be with you today and personally-congratulate each one of you for being finalist in the 2018 STEM Prize Award’, she desired. She stated that after reading the different submissions, she was moved by their deep understanding of the challenges they presented and their dedication to finding solutions, which when implemented, could have significant societal impact. ‘…You should be proud. To me, you are all winners’, Mrs. Ebule added. She reminded the victors that after celebrating, they should not rest on their laurels. ‘…This is one step in an exciting journey that you have chosen. Through STEM, you have decided to ask the hard questions. You’ve chosen to challenge the status quo and solve problems that you encounter, not just for yourself, but for your communities’, she highlighted. ‘…I am confident that each…of you has a very bright future. But there will be potholes ahead…. Do not let anything or anyone put out the fire that’s within you. Be bold, aim high, believe that you have what it takes to make a positive difference, not only to those around you, but beyond. Excellence is not just one act. Excellence is continuous hard work to make your best better…’, she reiterated. Mrs. Ebule also counseled the 2018 finalists to be an inspiration to many who might be considering STEM [or], who because of their daily challenges, do not know how they could go about providing solutions. ‘So, share the knowledge, go out and coach, encourage young people who may be interested in STEM…’, she stressed. ‘You are the bright minds of tomorrow [and] of our future. Today, you have a unique opportunity to build on what you started…, to make a better country [and] world: not just for yourself, but for the rest of us’, she underlined.
The teams (of young men and women below 21) that made it to the top 5 this 2018 have innovative projects aimed at improving living conditions, in different communities in Cameroon. 48 projects (from public and private secondary schools and universities) were received from 5 Regions of Cameroon. Gender-wise, 60% of applicants were female while 40% were male. The finalists were from Centre & North West Regions: of which 81% of them were female, whereas 19% were male.
On Thursday November 15, 2018 at 1:00pm at the Denis & Lenora Foretia Foundation, evaluation of STEM Prize projects came to an end. This happened during a working session that saw the presence of three (3) evaluators, non-affiliated to the Foundation and two (2) evaluators working for the Foundation. Prior to that meeting, each evaluator was charged to come out with a list of top 10 projects from which the finalists (top 5) would be chosen. All projects were given codes and each examiner strictly followed the evaluation criteria provided by the Foundation. This helped to avoid bias and made the evaluation process objective.
Congratulations to the winners!!!
Photo credits: Denis & Lenora Foretia Foundation