Leading the Charge: Lagos State Girls Powering a Sustainable Future in STEM

February 14, 2024

As we celebrate the 2024 International Day for Women and Girls in Science, with the theme “Women in Science Leadership: A New Era for Sustainability,” the spotlight shines brightly on young Nigerian girls who are breaking down barriers and carving their own paths in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The Lagos State Government’s innovative EKOEXCEL initiative stands as a powerful testament to this dedication to fostering an enabling environment for girls to blossom in these fields.

Launched in 2019, EKOEXCEL has transformed public primary education in Lagos State, impacting over 500,000 pupils across 1,013 schools. However, its impact goes beyond academics, actively promoting gender parity and empowering young girls to embrace STEM with confidence. The program equips teachers with the tools and training to address unconscious bias and encourage inclusive learning environments. 

“STEM is not just for boys,” emphasizes Dr. Nike Ogundari, a renowned Nigerian physicist and advocate for women in science. “We need the unique perspectives and problem-solving skills of girls to tackle the sustainability challenges facing our world.”

The story of EKOEXCEL wouldn’t be complete without highlighting the remarkable achievement of the top three performers in the 2023 National Common Entrance Examination – all brilliant young women. Ololade Ganiyat, Ugwu Victoria, and Chima Faith Mesomachukwu stunned the nation with exceptional scores. 

Furthermore, out of the total candidates that sat for the high stake examinations from Lagos state public primary schools, 50% were girls, and they excelled, with 70% of the tracked candidates scoring an impressive 70% and above. This not only showcases the academic prowess of these young girls but also highlights the positive impact of EKOEXCEL in providing an enabling environment for them to thrive.

The achievements of these young girls are further amplified by the accomplishments of trailblazing Nigerian women in STEM. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, reminds us that “the future of Africa depends on young women stepping up and taking their rightful place.”

Also, Professor Francisca Okeke, a distinguished astrophysicist and the first female head of the Nigerian Institute of Physics, shares her insights, “Girls should know that science is not a male profession. They should believe in themselves and pursue their passion for science. The sky is not the limit; it’s just the starting point”. These voices, echoing across the nation, inspire young girls to dream big and shatter glass ceilings.

A compelling testimony of EKOEXCEL’s efficacy in shaping young girls to take subjects in STEM, is that of Fareedah Olawale, a primary 4 pupil of Our Lady of Fatima primary school, Mushin. 

Fareedah, once captivated by colourful candies, now inspired to become a software developer. EKOEXCEL’s “Hour of Code” lesson, celebrated globally, opened a virtual world of possibilities. With each coding lesson, her imagination built castles and characters, all controlled by her newfound interest. Fareedah’s coding journey exemplifies the impact EKOEXCEL can have. In just one classroom, through engaging initiatives like “Hour of Code,” girls discover the potential to become the game-changers of tomorrow.

This sentiment was echoed by Honorable Shijuade Idowu-Taimyu, a Permanent Board Member of LASUBEB, during her visit to St. Agnes Nursery and Primary School in Maryland on International Day for Women and Girls in Science.

Addressing a passionate group of young girls, Shijuade delivered a pep talk, urging them to consider careers in STEM and highlighting the importance of gender equality in education. “For you to be a top innovator,” she emphasized, “you must focus on your education, read your books, and listen attentively to your teachers.” Her message resonated deeply with the girls, leaving them inspired and empowered to pursue their dreams fearlessly.

By nurturing the talents and aspirations of young girls in STEM, EKOEXCEL serves as a beacon of hope, not just for Lagos State, but for the entire nation and beyond. These young women are the future leaders, problem-solvers, and innovators who will drive sustainable solutions for the challenges of tomorrow. Let their achievements inspire countless others to follow their lead, pushing the boundaries of possibility and creating a more equitable and sustainable future for all.

Together, let us celebrate the trailblazing spirit of Nigerian girls in STEM and continue to advocate for initiatives like EKOEXCEL that empower them to become the leaders of a brighter tomorrow.

This article appeared originally on Business day, February 19, 2024