For every girl, empowerment

Changing the future for girls in Krachie East through STEM

Henry Derben
A girl stands in front her school in the Volta Region
UNICEF/UN100233/DERBEN
02 December 2019

For Victoria Dentaa, mathematics was a subject she never paid attention to. As a girl, not excelling in mathematics was a norm. “I have never liked math and growing up I never saw girls who did. Math is seen as a subject for boys,” Victoria, the 16-year old final year student of Tokuroanu M/A Junior High, said.

The low interest of mathematics among students of the school, especially girls, turned around when a female math teacher was introduced. “When we got our first female Math teacher, more girls took Math seriously,” Victoria said, flashing a smile.

The female math teacher is Kate Dibri. Growing up, Kate always had love for mathematics but she wasn’t given enough support from friends and family to pursue a career in that field.

“I grew up with the general perception that math was for boys and gurus only. That it’s hard subject for girls to understand, not to talk of even pursuing a career in that field,” Kate, 27, said recalling her years in high school.

Life-changing decision


In 2018, after a year of teaching Religious and Moral Education at Tokuroanu M/A Junior High School, she attended the Better Life for Girls Camp, organized by UNICEF Ghana. The camp provided additional tutorial support in Science, English, Mathematics & Life Skills.

“The facilitators at the Girls Camp & teacher training programmes helped to renew my interest in Mathematics and I made the life-changing decision of switching to teach Maths and assist more girls to develop interest in the subject,’ said Kate, one of only three female teachers in Science, Tech, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in Krachie East municipality of the Oti Region.

The training programme benefited over 140 teachers from 40 public schools in the municipality on gender responsive ways of teaching STEM topics, increasing female participation and using interactive teaching methods to improve inclusion in classrooms.

Changing perceptions


Previously, Victoria explained that Math was perceived as a difficult subject to grasp but that changed after Kate introduced teaching and learning materials including visual aids to simplify mathematical concepts. 


“Gradually, math became very interesting and fun to learn for many of us."

More girls were called to answer questions and were encouraged even when they couldn’t answer questions correctly. These things really helped us to see math differently.”

 

A teacher stands in front of a chalk board
Math teacher, Kate Dibri, 27, empowers more girls to pursue STEM careers and take leadership roles.

Performance improvement


Headmaster of the school, Mr. Reuben Ashigbe, said he’s amazed at the high number of students who have developed interest in mathematics within a year, especially girls. “We conduct a termly survey on levels of understanding among students for each subject. For the first time, over fifty percent of students said they understood mathematical concepts better,” Mr. Ashigbe said.

Breaking the glass ceiling


Kate was determined to increase female representation in student leadership. In view of that, she advocated for girls to contest for the head prefect position, a role which had been a preserve for males.

“I started a girls’ club to constantly educate them on personal hygiene and encourage girls to partake in school activities such as sports, quiz competitions, debates and most importantly, leadership roles.” 

In a historic election that academic term, the school elected Victoria Dentaa as the first female head prefect, defying all odds and doubts in the race. “I had no plans to contest for the head prefect position until Ms. Kate called for a girls’ club meeting that changed everything,” Victoria, 16, recalled. “I never really believed a girl can become the head school prefect until election day when I won by a small margin.”

Victoria believes the future of girls in STEM in the community is brighter now as more girls want to take up careers in mathematics. 

“Now, more girls are excited when they see math problems on the board. It’s a chance to prove that they can solve math questions and be anything they want to be in future,” Victoria said.