By: Jerromie S. Walters

As Liberia continues to struggle to improve STEM education, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, has given relief to said quest, following the dedication of a standard Science, Technology, Electricity, and Mathematics (STEM) laboratory. 

The modern lab, which is situated in the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA)’s building and named the Roseline K. Toweh STEM Hub, was dedicated on Friday, May 26, 2023.

The facility was named in honor of the fallen Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) Chair Roseline K. Toweh for her commitment and dedicated service to the women of Liberia and the country at large.

Vice President Jewel Howard, in an intrinsic remark at the occasion, thanked the CEO of STEMpower Inc. and its family for considering Liberia to benefit from the initiative, as she believes the issue of ITC is one of many things Liberian students are challenged with.

As disclosed by the VP, beginning this week, they will make a trip to Bong County, where the Community College will benefit from the second phase of the initiative.

She vowed to ensure that each of the universities will benefit from the hub and stressed that she wants the facility to be a hub for learning for university students across Montserrado.

Further, the Vice President encouraged students and other young people to make use of the facility and further alluded that it is her assignment to ensure that young Liberians get what they want, specifically those that are significant to their growth.

According to her, she saw it as the most beneficial tribute to pay to the fallen YWCA boss for her dedication to the Liberian state.

The Vice President recently toured the facility, and at that time she informed newsmen that it is expected to be operated on a very high technological system as it contains 30 computers per lab with a single central processing unit (CPU).

She described STEM hubs as the most relevant institution for training young Liberians and mentioned that the lab will provide training for electronic devices and what she described as “serious ICT digital training”. 

The initiative, as announced by the VP, is an outcome of a partnership between STEMpower, Inc., the Office of the Vice President, and the Jewel Starfish Foundation that’s arranged to benefit both genders (male and female) and will also be extended to Bong County, where the second facility (a computer lab) will be constructed at the Bong Technical College.

Justifying their decision to choose the YWCA compound for the project, the Vice President said that with that location, it affords students of all universities across Montserrado easy access to do their training at different points.

Additionally, she said Bong Technical College was chosen because of its name, as it provides technical education. “We have chosen the YWCA for the first project, and the second one will be done in another few days at Bong Technical College”.

“We hope after one year of operating these two systems, Liberia will be eligible for a few more grants, which we hope to send to one of the technical colleges,” she stated.

With this initiative and hundreds of other developments that are now realities because of the existence of George W. Bush’s administration, the Vice President wants people to see the positive things that are happening under their administration.

“We need to ensure that whatever’s being done is categorized so that people can see the impact of President George Manneh Weah’s PAPD agenda on the people of Liberia,” the Vice President further explained.

In a brief statement, Mr. Edwin Kumfa, the CEO of STEMpower, attributed his willingness to continue with the endeavor in Liberia and other countries to the known fact that African students don’t have easy access to computers or STEM education in general.

He described it as his way of paying back to society and emphasized that it is his plan to erect STEM labs in every major city in Africa.

According to him, the labs Liberia is to benefit from came about as a result of fruitful engagements with the office of the Vice President as well as the Jewel Starfish Foundation.

In a brief lecture on the topic, “Unlocking possibilities in the digital world”, Ms. Sara Elizebeth Buchanan

She said the efforts to enhance women’s technological capabilities are being actualized through the opening of the facility.

With the current status of the world, where digital education is significant in securing a job, she believes it’s important that more efforts be made for women specifically.

In talking about unlocking possibilities in the digital world, she believes it’s important to consider the impact on society.

Emphasizing the basic significance of digitalization and encouraging women to make more significant use of the media.

She wants them to use the social media platforms to do more positive things, like showcase their businesses and build a better brand.

However, she believes there are still more challenges to accessing adequate digital education.

Elaborating on the overview of the project, Ms. Stephene Kpoto, consultant to the project, said throughout the existence of the Jewel Star

It has been an aim to aid young people through technology.

She was linked with the institution, and following several consultations, they agreed to draft the facility in Liberia.

From the onset, she said it was intended to be a single lab, but as discussions heightened, the company agreed to erect two.

According to the consultant, beneficiaries will benefit from key components of technology that will advance their technological skills.

She guaranteed more of said project, specifically through the Jewel Starfish Foundation.

From his angle, Dr. Jonathan Taylor, the Vice President for Academic Affairs of the University of Liberia, alluded to the fact that Liberia can’t boast its educational system without an improvement in ITC.

He hailed the Jewel Starfish Foundation and her partners for the initiative, as he believes it’s intrinsic to the state educational sector.

According to him, the Science College of the University of Liberia is one of the largest departments at the institution, which he believes demonstrates the interest students have in ITC.

He alluded to the fact that girls are building more interest in IYC, contrary to how it was some years ago, as he disclosed that there’s currently a 50:50 ratio between boys and girls at the UL.

The Ministry of Education representative at the occasion venerated the initiative, as he described it as a relief, especially considering the fact that he said the practical leg of ITC in Liberia is broken.

Also, he said Liberia is financially challenged, so the needed labs are not available, but other STEM initiatives are being organized by the Ministry.

He thanked the Jewel Starfish Foundation for the project and emphasized that it is very important for the country.

Moreover, he said the Ministry of Education is constrained, and they are calling for more support.

From her end, Benica Elliot said that with the initiative, she believes Liberia is one step further in ITC, as she sees it as an opportunity for young people to utilize their skills.

FLY’s President said her institution’s role now is to get the message out about the center in order to get more young people onboard.

She guaranteed the Federation of Liberian Youths’ commitment to the process and all other processes that are attached to the betterment of the young people of Liberia.

STEM is a common abbreviation for four closely connected areas of study: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The fields are often associated due to the similarities that they share both in theory and practice.

Basically, the lab at the YWCA, which was setup by STEMpower Inc., is programmed at different levels to intrinsically benefit individuals from beginner to master level.

STEMpower Inc. is an international non-profit, non-governmental organization registered in the US and Ethiopia.

It is founded on the foundation that sTEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education innovation encourages students and innovators to engineer their way out of poverty by straightening their country’s workforce.

To date, STEMpower Inc. has established 100 STEM centers, 3 interactive science museums, and 2 FabLabs in Ethiopia.

STEMpower runs other pioneering projects, including entrepreneurship and incubation, where innovators are equipped with 21st century skills on top of technical guidance to create tech jobs and wealth.

In keeping with her proactive commitment to women’s empowerment and other significant efforts, the Vice President currently has the YWCA Jewels Training Center at the YWCA compound.

Officially opened on July 25, 2022, the YWCA Jewels Training Center is an establishment of the Jewel Starfish Foundation. Girls participating in activities at the center are exposed to a variety of skills, including ICT, cosmetology, design and arts, and bead making.

The programs include: ICT (Microsoft Office); web design and graphic design; hardware; social media technologies; cosmetology (hair, nails, and skin); design and arts (painting, drawing, sculpture, and graphic design).

Also, girls are being schooled in bead making, the art or craft of attaching beads to one another by stringing them onto a thread or thin wire with a sewing or beading needle or sewing them onto a cloth.

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