15 May How to get more women into engineering at university
The African philosopher and educationalist James Aggrey (1875-1927) stated that if you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family, indeed a nation. This statement suggests that the education of women is significant to the development of Africa.
Though African men contribute to development, African women carry a heavier portion of the continent’s underdevelopment burden in the fields of health and childcare; agriculture; and food production, processing and preservation. For instance, invariably, African rural communities have no access to pipe-borne water systems and non-fossil fuel. It is the lot of African women to travel long distances to fetch water and firewood for household consumption.
Enrolment statistics indicate that African women are underrepresented in university engineering programmes across the African continent. For example, at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, while marginal progress has been made in female enrolment in the engineering programme, the percentage of male enrolment is about 90%.
Similarly, at one of the oldest African universities, Makerere University, Uganda, 2,160 students enrolled in the engineering programmes in the 2009-10 academic year. Among them, only 22% were women.
At the University of Rwanda, the percentage of women enrolled in engineering programmes in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years was 20% and 19% respectively. The University of Mines and Technology, Ghana, matriculated 503 undergraduate students in the 2014-15 academic year. The proportion of women was only 16%. In the previous year, it was almost 20%. On average, the percentage of matriculated female students of that university hovers around 15%-20%.
The underrepresentation of women in university engineering programmes in Africa cannot be attributed to a lack of interest, ability or intellectual capacity. Instead, a traditional presentation of science and mathematics as a male domain; societal cultural practices that prioritise the education of men over that of women; and an unsupportive science and mathematics teaching environment in secondary school contribute to the paucity of African women studying engineering in African universities. …Read More