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Stepping Up for STEM

March 29, 2023
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Students at Brantford Christian School hold up microscopes from Redeemer University.
Photo: EduDeo

Across Africa, less than 25 percent of higher-education students pursue STEM-related careers. That’s almost an entire workforce of young people missing out on careers that could provide meaning, purpose, and positive change for not only their own lives but also their communities.

But the problem doesn’t just start in university; it begins earlier, mainly from a lack of trained high school teachers, a lack of awareness on the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and, most of all, a lack of access to proper resources and infrastructure in high school.

Students in some African countries may attend high school for four to six years without ever setting foot in a science lab. And even if they do, the lab may not be set up with the right resources to help them learn. Science is taught in the classroom but seldom involves any hands-on learning.

That’s where Redeemer University of Ancaster, Ont., came in.

Over the past three years, Redeemer has been investing in new microscopes for its own science labs. But their outdated instruments are still in great condition for use in other school settings.

Ron van der Heiden, a biology laboratory instructor at Redeemer, was determined to find new homes for these “old friends” to allow them to continue being part of students’ science education.

Van der Heiden approached EduDeo, a Christian charity that works to advance Christ-centered education worldwide, to see if their international partners could use them. Together, Redeemer and EduDeo came up with an even better idea: the microscopes were made available to Canadian Christian schools in exchange for a donation to EduDeo, and the donated funds are supporting the construction of new science labs at Mwase Secondary School in Lundazi, Zambia.

Seven Canadian schools took advantage of this rare opportunity and raised almost $2,300. It was a win-win-win! Redeemer was able to demonstrate good stewardship and to show support for other levels of Christian education, Canadian Christian schools obtained quality microscopes, and students in Zambia will have more opportunities to receive an education that includes hands-on laboratory experience.

Brantford (Ont.) Christian School, one of the schools to receive the microscopes, also invited Laurie Koning, school relationship manager at EduDeo, to speak to its students about how the “new” microscopes were helping Zambian students who would otherwise be learning science without actually practicing it.

Jeff Summerhays, a teacher at Brantford Christian School, said, “It made [students] excited that they would be having a direct impact in helping to equip students in Zambia so that the world of science can be opened up to them as well.”

A quality science education isn’t just important for future doctors, engineers, meteorologists, or computer scientists. It’s also important for allowing students to learn more about their creator and the role they play in God’s creation. Van der Heiden explained by saying, “My hope is that children would have an opportunity to have at least a glimpse of that part of the creation visible only through the lens of a microscope, and then, through the lens of faith, understand in a fresh way how great our God is.”