The national competition dubbed as InterswitchSPAK was unveiled on April 3rd 2019. It was birthed through a partnership between the Ministry of Education, UNESCO, NACOSTI, key stakeholders and integrated electronic payments and commerce company, Interswitch.
InterswitchSPAK competition gives an opportunity for both private and public secondary schools in 47 counties the chance to nominate the best six Form 3 Stem (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) students for the competition.
It targets students from both public and private schools from across the nation and they must be between the ages of 15 and 18 at the time of submission.
The winner will receive an array of accolades including a scholarship worth Ksh.1.5 million, a laptop, a signage for their school. The 1st and 2nd runners up will get Ksh.750,000 and Ksh.150,000 respectively and a laptop for each of the winners.
The project which is expected to take a year targets to get online registrations from at least 12,000 students across the country within a period of six weeks. It will then be followed by a national qualifying contest which will be held in 50 centres countywide.
This will help determine the best 54 students who will then proceed to the next round and feature in the InterswitchSPAK Kenya 1.0 National TV show to determine the top nine students in Kenya.
The competition comes amidst raised concerns about the gradual decline of the quality of STEM education over the last few years. However, the stakeholders involved are optimistic that the competition will have a positive impact especially on the students as it will help pave a way for them in their careers.
“Research has it that in the next 10-20years, most of the jobs available will have STEM integrated into them. So, for us at Interswitch, we began to ask the question: Is Kenya ready for this, is the African continent ready for this?, ” said Cherry Eromosele, Group Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Interswitch.
She added that InterswitchSPAK provides a platform that is preparing and empowering the students who will be the future Africa problem solvers. She said that the programme hopes that the students will in future be able to build and sustain businesses that will grow the Kenyan and African economy at large.
“The STEM programme will be increasing the number of students interested in STEM subjects address national development objectives and challenges that require scientific skills to resolve. On the other hand, students derive maximum benefits from participation and meeting their counterparts form other countries. Such experiences are never in vain,” said NACOSTI Director General, Dr.Moses Rugutt said.
The UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa Representative, Dr. Alice Ochanda said that the move will provide various opportunities for sound education for Kenyan students. This will in turn drive them towards the direction of their careers (either as an inventor or an entrepreneur).