. Towards promoting access and empowering the girl child in stem education: The practical experiences of the girl child students, studying electrical engineering at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic Nyama Chanetsa. Introduction • This paper examines the practical experiences of the marginalized Girl Child students studying Electrical Engineering at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic • The study comprises of ten female students, five (5) females in their first year, and two (2) in their second year on industrial attachment and three (3) females in their final year at College. Introduction • The Girl Child has been marginalized for quite a long time world over. She has been viewed as a person of no value in the family and society as compared to the boy child (Chimedza and Sithole 2000). • Zimbabwe in correcting gender inequalities in our country introduced The National Gender Policy in 2004 (The National Gender Policy 2013-2017:4). Introduction • The policy goal was to eradicate gender discrimination and inequalities in all spheres of life and development. • Since 2004, significant progress has been made in Zimbabwe in promoting gender equality between men and women / boy child and girl child Introduction cont • The 2011 Human Development Report revealed that the Gender Inequality Index (GII) was at 0.583 compared to an ideal zero. • As a way of promoting and empowering the Girl Child in (STEM) the government of Zimbabwe adopted the policy on Inclusive Education which provided equal educational opportunities to all students regardless of gender, colour, race and creed (The National Gender Policy 2013-2017 Introduction cont • The adoption of National Gender Policy 2004, The Bill of Rights Chapter 4 on inclusive education by nations changed things for the betterment of the Girl Child. • The adoption of National Gender Policy 2004, The Bill of Rights Chapter 4 on inclusive education by nations changed things for the betterment of the Girl Child • This practice of empowering the Girl Child is also in line with the Millennium Development Goals, Youth Empowerment Programmes and the Technical and Vocational programme in secondary schools which support the Girl Child to be given equal educational opportunities as the Boy Child.(The National Gender Policy 2004, 2008 Introduction cont • Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic as an institution of higher tertiary implements Inclusive Education to all aspiring students in their Teacher Education and Technical divisions and enrolls both the Girl Child and the Boy. Introduction cont • The students enrolled for the above courses should have passed English, Mathematics and Science at ‘Ordinary Level.” • The students studying electrical engineering follow a 1-1-1 model of training. • The models allows the students to spend one year at College acquiring knowledge and skills on electrical Engineering. Introduction cont • During the second year the students go for industrial attachment. . • It is during this period that the students put the theory learnt into practice • . As they do their industrial attachments, they work with experienced personnel (mentors), foremen, supervisors and College Lecturers following the Industrial Trade Testing Department (ITTD) criteria of assessment specifications STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM • Although a lot of effort has been put in place towards promoting access and empowering the girl child in Stem Education in Technical Colleges through the National Gender Policy, the Bill of Rights in section 4, what has been put in place for girls so that they don’t experience some challenges in the male dominated fields? • Are their needs taken care of, since most of them lack the electrical engineering background? RESEARCH QUESTIONS • The following research questions were used to come up with the girl students studying electrical engineering’s practical experience; • How are girl students studying electrical engineering accepted in their communities. • Are the students provided with any form of skills and counseling? ? • What are some of the challenges that the girl students face as they pursue their course? RATIONALE FOR THE STUDY • The ultimate rationale is to come up with the whole society approach in stem education, which is friendly to the girl child students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, as the ultimate beneficiaries in the provision of quality STEM Education in Technical Colleges . GOALS OF THE STUDY • Provide lecturers with information on how stem education is being implemented at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic. • Assist stake-holders with information on how the girl child should be handled and treated when they are at college and on industrial attachment. • Give policy formulators the chance to say their views on assistance which should be offered to students studying STEM in Colleges and Universities. • METHOD • The research was primarily qualitative and it adopted a case study design. • The design afforded the researcher to study contemporary phenomenon within its real – life context. PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING • The population in this study consisted of (10 ) ten electrical engineering students at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic from 2011 to 2014 in their first year at college, second year on industrial attachment and in their third and final year. SAMPLING PROCEDURE • A convenience – purposive technique was used in this study. Five students in their first year were sampled, two (2) in their second year and three (3) in their third and final year to make a total of ten students. All these students in the three categories have some form of practical experience in the study. These were hand picked following personal judgment or discretion of their worth for study (Maree 2007) DATA COLLECTION INSTRUMENTS • A mixed questionnaire with both open ended and closed items were used to collect evidence from participants. • Semi – structured interviews were also adopted to solicit relevant research data from face- toface encounter. The validity and reliability of the instruments was achieved through generation of representatives’ samples, objectives and detailed data collection and interpretation and triangulation Data presentation, analysis and interpretation • The discursive (narrative) method was used in qualitative data analysis and interpretation. • Information from respondents was recorded without alterations. • On the issue of girls rated as inferior, 30% disagreed and 70% strongly disagreed. The girl students said the male students had a wrong perception about them basing on the cultural stereotypes. They said male students first thought we were not competent. We proved ourselves on the in-class tests that we wrote. We proved to be better than male students. All the student‘s marks ranged from 70% to 80%.The respondents said they were inferior in the making and not in the doing. FINDINGS • Response on practical experiences In their first residential year the students raised the issue of change in life pattern since most students were not exposed to College life. At College, the girl children were regarded as adults who are able to formulate life goals, and learn new life skills and personal care routines. This has been found to be a challenge since most students said they depended on their parents for personal upkeep. They said they experienced some challenges when they ran short of money. FINDINGS cont • The male students had negative attitude about them and thought they were incompetent. • They said whenever we reacted negatively on the male moves, they ended having negative attitude on us. • They said this sometimes affected their performance FINDINGS cont • They said they were abused by males • The other student said males need to understand our strengths and weakness. If this is done, this can take us a long way in encouraging us females to fit quite well in our communities. CONCLUSION • The Girl child‘s practical experiences shows that they were trying their levels best despite some challenges that they encountered in their first year and second year on attachments. • It was observed that the girl child needs assistance from the time they are enrolled. The assistance can be in the form of Transitional counseling, behavioural therapies, information counseling, and enhanced skills. Lack of these as part of their training made the students to encounter some challenges. Recommendations • The College should provide the following forms of counselling to the girl child for her to cope with the challenges at college; • Transition Counseling, • Behavioural therapy • Information Counseling • Enhanced skills in addition to the Health and Life skills.