A team of female scientists from Ikala STEM (Women in STEM – Madagascar) have implemented LAMPS the project. The project directly addresses the inequality between urban and rural Madagascar in accessing quality STEM education. Furthermore, it showcases the relevance of science in everyday life. The Office of Astronomy for Development (IAU-OAD)-funded project was to hold in the AVN-host city of Arivonimamo. However, the organisers adapted it to a two-stage STEM education hybrid event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included a one-week online activity (e-LAMPS) and school visits by LAMPS volunteers.
e-LAMPS online program
e-LAMPS was held in June 2021 under the theme “Science in our daily life” or “STEM, incontournable dans notre quotidien” in French. The programme primarily targeted middle and high school learners as well as tertiary students and replaced the planned in-person STEM Fair. The event consisted of online quizzes, games, talks etc., targeting Malagasy middle and high school learners all over the country. The organisers leveraged Ikala STEM’s Facebook page and website to ensure maximum reach for e-LAMPS. They also utilised TV and radio stations, printed newspapers and posters. Furthermore, seven STEM-focused NGOs partnered with Ikala STEM during this virtual component of the project. More than 100 high school learners participated in the e-Quiz Contest, and the event reached at least 15,000 people virtually.
The second phase of LAMPS consisted of school visits in three middle and high schools in Arivonimamo in July 2021. First, the organisers held a half-day soft skills workshop for the volunteers to strengthen their communication and presentation skills. The organisers mobilised 32 volunteers to run the program, that at least 400 learners attended successfully. Ikala STEM also took the opportunity to distribute COVID-19 kits to schools, teachers, and learners in Arivonimamo. In addition, they trained and equipped the volunteers with communication and science engagement skills.
Despite the uncertainties and challenges from COVID-19 restrictions, LAMPS was a success. The organisers conducted it with funding from the OAD and Climate Research for Development in Africa (CR4D). LAMPS also enjoyed commitment from volunteers, partnership with local and international STEM-focused NGOs, and dedicated engagement of the core team. Through this project, Ikala STEM increased its visibility in the country. Furthermore, it worked towards its mission: to empower the next generation of women in STEM.
It led to increased interest and knowledge in astronomy. The evidence of this is an oversubscription of two subsequent outreach and workshop events. Thus, at least ten volunteers will be joining Malagasy Astronomy & Space Science as amateur members. Furthermore, teachers and learners from the visited schools know of the ongoing refurbishment of the old communication satellite. The satellite is undergoing refurbishment into an Astro telescope. LAMPS also increased interest in STEM in general. This is also as learners from the schools have joined/intend to join the existing STEM club run sponsored by UNESCO in their schools. Generally, LAMPS provided more visibility for women in STEM and led to an improved understanding of the necessity of science in our daily life.