For three days in Liberia, Giewee Giah taught 20 eager and polite children, from the 4th through 7th grades, about engineering and computer science using robots. She wanted to inspire and prepare them for careers in engineering or similar fields.
Very quickly, Giewee realized the depth of their needs.
“I asked them to stand at the front of the class present what they wrote about what they experienced during their orientation. These kids do not have books, so they often do not see the words used in lecture, so they had only heard the word ‘robot’,” Giewee said. “Once I reviewed their writing, I noticed that the word, “robot” was spelled as ‘r’, ‘u’, ‘b’, ‘o’ ,‘t’ ; ‘r’ ,‘u’, ‘b’ ,‘b’ ,‘a’, ‘h’ ; etc. …Resources are not trickling down to these kids to be for them to be productive citizens of not just Liberia but the world.”
Giewee – along with partners across Liberia and the United States – is determined to fill the gap in resources and offer a path for the children to reach their potential. This fall, she launched Wahjay-STEM, a non-profit that will provide resources, teacher training, and technical assistance to two schools in Buchanan City, Liberia, to reform the school’s current science and math education. Additionally, Wahjay will select and support 25 students to participate in a national robotics competition in early 2017.
Wahjay is focused on helping Liberia’s students enter into science, technology, engineering and math-related occupations, or what is known as STEM. Giewee brings her personal experiences to bear – proud of her Liberian heritage and working as a Data Scientist in Houston.
Giewee’s ten-day trip to Liberia included training teachers, teaching students, and meeting government officials. While Wahjay understood Liberia’s struggling education system from the start, Giewee’s trip crystalized how urgent the need was. For example, even as the two schools, World Wide Mission Academy and Buchanan Demonstration School are improving their courses in science and math through Wahjay, Buchanan City has no reliable source of electricity and no Internet access.
However, it was not just the training and curriculum needs that Giewee found – she also found that the teachers, students, and partners are equally determined to make the reforms a success. For example, the Nyonblee Cares Foundation is providing temporary generators for electricity at the demonstration schools and Lonestar MTN has committed to supplying the internet for research and instruction.
Head Bassa County Senator, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence leads Nyonblee Cares Foundation and has said the government is excited by the promise of the Wahjay-STEM. Senator Karnga-Lawrence wishes for the Senate to pass a bill that would support expanding the Wahjay-STEM curriculum for 4th through 6th-grade students at all schools.
After working with Giewee, three students were selected to share their experiences with the Senate and encourage support of the new curriculum. As Giewee was coaching one of the students – named Babygirl – on her presentation, the young student smiled at Giewee and said to her, “I will do better than you, Sister Giewee!”
Authored by Zarana Sanghani
Edited by Giewee Giah