Co-Founder of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEMGuyana) initiative Karen Abrams has told the Stabroek Business that the response of young Guyanese to last Saturday’s first ever National Robotics and Technology Exhibition at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall more than justifies both the government and the private sector throwing their full weight behind the project by providing various forms of support to help take it forward.
“At a time when we hear so many negatives above the level of interest shown by our young people in constructive pursuits, I think that the attendance and the activities at the Sports Hall on Saturday compel us to rethink our perception of them,” Abrams said.
The Atlanta-based Guyanese, who, last year, initiated the widely commended STEM Summer Camp out of which came the creation of STEMGuyana, said that the immediate objective of STEMGuyana is to take the initiative to communities across Guyana. “That is our message and what I am saying is that it is a more than worthwhile message. It is a message about investing in the future of our young people and the future of our country; it is a message that has to do with adding a new and highly relevant dimension to our education curriculum. Except I have a completely mistaken understanding of Guyana’s development agenda then I say that failure to provide both public and private sector backing for an initiative of this kind would amount to a missed opportunity that we may regret down the road. As the programme expands nationally we will clearly need that additional support,” Abrams said.
Asserting that the young people who are benefiting from “the STEM experience” are essentially being prepared to “reshape the nation and expedite Guyana’s development,” Abrams said that up until now the mainstay of financial support for STEMGuyana continues to be the Guyana diaspora. “I believe that diaspora support is important because the people in the diaspora also have a stake in the development of Guyana. What I am also saying is that we also need to have local material support for the project.”
The STEMGuyana Co-Founder made it clear, however, that her call for more public/private sector support for the initiative was not intended to suggest that local institutions had been indifferent to the project. “Of course we would probably not have been able to get the project off the ground in the first place but for the active support of various types that has been forthcoming from First Lady Sandra Granger. A lot of this has been done quietly since I do not find her to be mindful of shouting her participation from the rooftops. As the project seeks to impact more broadly across Guyana we will need more resources.”
Abrams said there had already been a measure of interest expressed in supporting STEMGuyana by various private companies including GTT and Starr Computers. “The indications of support are welcome but STEMGuyana is determined to push in and until we can transform some of those expressions of interest into concrete agreements, we are going to have to depend on parents and well-wishers who want to see STEM clubs created in their communities.”
Abrams told Stabroek Business that STEMGuyana will continue to rely on the support of local media houses “to make our case” for more public and private sector support. “It is not just a matter of begging for contributions in a vacuum. It is a matter of having our sponsors and supporters, including the Government of Guyana understand that what we are asking them to do is to invest in a critical part of the country’s development agenda. While there has already been much outreach and a great deal of discussion no major agreements have as yet been struck,” Abrams said.
In seeking to make a case for the stepping up of material support for the STEM initiative from both government and the business community, Abrams said that the nexus between the pursuit of the STEM objectives and the realization of Guyana’s development goals can hardly be overstated. “As it happens, while Guyana continues to play catch-up, the rest of the world is moving full steam ahead. We can no longer afford to wait for key leaders to understand the importance of initiatives like the STEM programme,” she added.
Meanwhile, Abrams said that STEMGuyana’s short to medium-term plans include the creation of a secretariat in Georgetown and the appointment of a STEM Board of Directors.