STEM Guyana seeking diaspora, private sector support for new “Reading and Robotics” initiative

At the launch of the Reading and Robotics programme: Stem Guyana Co-ordinator Karen Abrams A.A seated (front row extreme right) and First Lady Sandra Granger (seated centre)

STEM Guyana and its partners have launched a nationwide Reading and Robotics programme in order encourage students   to   read   more,   while creating   opportunities   for   them   to   learn   about   robotics,   coding   and   Mathematics, and Chairperson of STEM Guyana Karen Abrams has said that support from the diaspora and the business community will be critical for its success.

The initiative is being undertaken by STEM Guyana in collaboration with the National Library, the Ministry of the Presidency, the Ministry of Public Telecommunications, the Office of the First Lady and the private sector, and Abrams says the latter is poised to benefit as much as the public sector.

“What we are seeking to do is to create a countrywide resource possessed of skills that will be as useful to strengthening capacity in the public sector as it will be in building the country’s entrepreneurial base,” Abrams told Stabroek Business.

On Wednesday, STEM Guyana unveiled the programme and Abrams, who was awarded the Golden Arrow of Achievement this year for her work here in helping to set a national STEM agenda, said that what is being attempted across the country through the initiative “caters to students with a broad range of intellectual and professional interests” and will prove “beneficial to the country’s development in several ways.”

The programme is being launched through 13 libraries, representing five main branches and eight rural centres in five regions of Guyana. Abrams said “serious and long-term commitments” from the diaspora as well as the local private sector are critical to the sustainability of the project. “It is not just about setting up systems and hoping that they work. We need reliable minders who will ensure that those systems continue to work and that they remain accessible to people,” Abrams said.

Towards this end, STEM Guyana is seeking the support of diaspora groups and local private sector entities to sponsor “at least one library,” with sponsorship including “the purchase of three robot kits, five tablets and training for two trainers,” a release from STEM Guyana said.

Abrams told Stabroek Business that setting aside the “material focus” of sponsorship, it was also the hope of the organisation that diaspora and private sector sponsors will also be paying “a broader interest” in the welfare of the libraries.

Meanwhile, Abrams said she was particularly encouraged by the commitment given by Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes that her ministry would provide internet connectivity to each of the participating libraries. “This is just the kind of long-term institutional support that we need which would mean, of course, that these institutions can boast a collective national ownership,” Abrams noted.

Already, she said, STEM Guyana has trained 58 potential STEM Club coaches and a further 48 will be trained in the new week.

The substantive Reading and Robotics Programme “will require all participants …to read for fifteen minutes before they begin their robot-building and programming and Scratch coding sessions,” the media release said. “We believe that it is important that the facets of young people’s lives that have to do with science, technology, robotics and things of that kind do not become detached from proficiency in reading skills,” Abrams said.

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