World Youth Skills Day: Empowering School Learners through STEM Education

School learners observing unit managers at Innovation Africa@UP as part of the career exposure

Through our programme, we strive to ignite the passion for science and technology in school learners, enabling them to contribute to a thriving African future

In today's rapidly changing world, the importance of skill development cannot be overstated. Equipping young people with the necessary tools and knowledge to succeed is crucial for their personal growth and the development of Africa.

Recognising this, Future Africa's Research Chair on Health, People, and Places (One Health) has initiated a 'Youth in STEM' schools programme to empower school learners with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills. The programme provides a range of practical and theoretical science activities, along with exciting career exposure opportunities.This includes:

•STEM Robotics Course, aimed at introducing school leaners to robotics and coding. By engaging with Arduino robots and developing block coding skills, the learners gain practical knowledge and a solid foundation in these fields. This equips them to harness the power of technology and develop essential problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.

•Literacy competition, to encourage critical thinking and effective communication through skills development in paraphrasing and essay writing. By nurturing the school learners' abilities in written expression and analysis, this programme prepares them for future academic and professional success.

The school learners are also provided with first-hand experiences in various STEM fields. Through presentations, exhibitions, and on-site visits, the school learners get a chance to explore different career options within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

To further support the learners' education, the programme introduces them to the Junior Tukkie App. This online platform provides learning support material for various subjects in the South African curriculum. Additionally, offline support is provided through flash drives, ensuring that schools with limited connectivity have access to educational resources.

A recent highlight for the programme was the hosting of the National Zoological Garden ZooClub in June 2023. School learners had the opportunity to participate in robotics and coding training, followed by a career exposure tour at Innovation Africa, located on the University of Pretoria campus. The robotics and coding course equipped learners with a solid understanding of robotics and coding principles using virtual 3D robots. During the career exposure tour, learners explored diverse STEM careers and gained valuable knowledge into the management of the experimental farm by observing unit managers in action.

Tedson Nkoana, Community Engagement Officer at Future Africa's Research Chair on One Health and the facilitator of the 'Youth in STEM' initiative, shared his thoughts about the programme,stating, "Empowering young minds with STEM skills is not only vital for their personal growth but also for the development of our continent. Through our programme, we strive to ignite the passion for science and technology in school learners, enabling them to contribute to a thriving African future."

As the world commemorates World Youth Skills Day on the 15th of July, this programme takes a significant step in empowering South African youth with valuable STEM skills and opportunities.