By Caroline Chebet, Giants Club African Conservation Fellow, The Standard.
Published 9 June 2018.
It has only one computer to its name. Yet the day school in a remote village in Njoro, Nakuru County, elbowed out national academic giants from the table of scientific innovations.
Keriko Mixed Day School’s laboratory is a shell. But this has not distracted the boys and girls who brave chilly mornings in their quest to acquire knowledge and exploit their creativity.
The school which was established six years ago was ranked second in the 56th Kenya National Science and Engineering fair after their Mathematics project emerged the best.
“The device showcased by two Form Three students Salome Njeri and Esther Amimo comes handy when solving Maths problems that involve measurements of angles and distances by using an innovative device that can also be used by blind and deaf students,” Peter Mokaya, the teacher overseeing the projects said.
Review and judge the work
The students said the device simplifies calculation of the length of a circle by using a practical yet innovative tool instead of a ruler that is not user friendly to the blind and the deaf.
It has different colours to represent different figures for the deaf and different tags to represent measurements for the blind.
“It is a simple project where one can measure distance in a simplified manner, it is calibrated and has colours making it easy even for the blind and deaf users,” Esther said.
The device which resembles a wall clock, is calibrated and has an alarm that goes off when a set target is achieved.
“The world is looking for the best ways of ensuring the needs of all people including the physically challenged are addressed therefore we recommend the use of the device in all learning institutions including schools for the blind and deaf,” she said.
Shree Cutchi Leva Patel Samaj School emerged top while Keriko came second, Njonjo High School ranked third while St Mary’s Kitany and Moi Siongiroi came fourth and fifth.
“Our project which was ranked the best only cost Sh100 while for the six projects we presented, we spent less than Sh2,000 and had the highest presentations in the contest attended by top schools across the country. Other schools had projects worth over Sh50,000 but for our case we only assembled what the students could get locally,” Mr Mokaya, the patron said.
The school showcased the project idea during the National Commission for Science Technology and innovation.
“It was an honour interacting with the top cream schools and it was the best experience we ever had. We realised that however cheap our project looked, it was innovative even compared to the rest of the schools where some invested a lot of money,” Njeri said.
Despite lacking a library, the school was also ranked top for their unique project in producing electricity using plant extracts, during last year’s Kenya Science and Engineering Fair.
“We still face several challenges, however, our students have managed to defy all the odds and become giants who might be soon representing our country in the global science fairs. Even despite having one computer that serves the secretary and the entire school including the staff, they have managed to beat the odds,” Mr Daniel Mwariri, the school head teacher said.
Mokaya noted that the school needs basic amenities like the library, computers, classes and even laboratories to boost innovation.
“The really need a library, computers and even laboratories especially having been producing the best students in science fairs,” he said.
Unfortunately the students could not afford air tickets to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering fair in the United States last year.
The global science fair is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. The competition brings together top young scientific minds from over 75 countries who showcase their independent research projects and compete for USD4M in prizes.
International science fair
In the competition doctoral level scientists review and judge the work presented by the students at the international stage.
“We could not raise the air fare and the students had to stay, this year too being one of the top performers have a chance to get an invite but we still have challenges even with raising the airfare,” Mr Mwariri said.
The school has been invited to the International Science and Engineering fair in Arizona, United States following their exemplary performance.
Mr Mwariri disclosed that the school will approach the county government and the Education Ministries to help raise air fare for the students.
“As much as they are performing really well, I would also love them to showcase their talents in the international arenas so as to encourage the rest.
The students have been working really hard and the only gift we can award them is to cater for their air fare ticket so they can represent the country,” he said.
The Ministry of Education has set aside Sh3 billion in the next financial year to support science innovation research and technology in technical institutions and secondary schools.
Read the full story here. This story is reproduced here as part of the Giants Club African Conservation Journalism Fellowships, a Space for Giants programme to expand the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in the four countries where we work.