Zimbabwe Spices up Science for Solutions
Change begins with our own actions. These actions may seem minor, yet in the long run, seemingly insignificant moves shape destinies. All 17-year-old Knowledge Chikundi wanted to do when he approached the University of Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Education was to help teach science in a “less boring way.” As a student himself, Knowledge was dismayed by the lack of inspiration in science classes, despite the exciting potential of science to change lives. As a young man from an ill-equipped rural school, the odds were against Knowledge and could’ve easily been a reason for him to give up or not even consider taking action. Yet, in 2013, he went ahead and did it.
Fast forward to now, and the Zimbabwe Science Fair and its affiliate programs are reshaping the teaching and learning experiences of students of all different ages and backgrounds. The way young Zimbabweans disseminate and utilise information has been transformed tremendously.
The Zimbabwe Science Fair is now an organisation which thrives on advancing and accelerating Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics and Innovation (STEAMI) in Zimbabwe. Their core focus is hosting science shows and demonstrations of science concepts using everyday items in schools, while also promoting innovation by encouraging students to think outside the box and solve their everyday problems using science.
The pilot for this program began with just two schools in the capital city Harare but the science fair now has the capacity to work with all 8300 schools in Zimbabwe. Due to scarce resources, the organisation has devised ways of remotely promoting their exercises through the help of partners such as the Australian and American Embassies, as well as in partnership with the Australian National Science Fair, which has created an online platform where students can upload their projects.
Knowledge takes pride in the way the science fair has enabled students from all walks of life to not only showcase their talent and make a difference in their communities but also to start the ideation process at a very young age — which is why the organisation also runs a science fair for preschool students. In just five days, they managed to engage 14,600 students in the Mashonaland Central province and 12 000 in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo. Apart from the more academic Science Fair, they also have The Buskers Festival, which, in partnership with the Australian National Science Fair, sees students participate and utilise science as a communication tool.
Impact Hub Harare, of which Knowledge is a member, plays an advisory role to Zimbabwe science fair initiatives and his membership enables him to host science seminars at the space. Knowledge lives by the mantra that, “We can solve our problems using the scientific method,” and to him, his endeavours are only just beginning. He has recently released a book entitled Science: The Golden Road out of Poverty, while also working on building the very first Science Centre in the remote town of Nkayi. In addition, he is building on the experience of undertaking the Arizona State University’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative Fellowship by organising a Sustainability Gala to raise awareness on the importance of STEM.