One Texas State student is putting his research to action by creating science, technology, engineering and math resources for young girls in Ghana, West Africa.
Owusu Boakye, doctoral research assistant at the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research, has helped set up an educational club for female students in Ghana. In addition, he is in the process of establishing a free library.
Boakye said growing up in a household filled with women sparked the inspiration behind helping them in STEM fields.
His late grandmother founded Eben International School in Ghana in the 1980s, and Boakye’s mother is now the director.
Boakye said his grandmother was a feminist, although she never labeled herself as one.
“I remember when boys would come to chase my aunties, she would say ‘can somebody pass me my handgun?’ The boys would run away,” Boakye said. “A lot of people in my house were females, so I have a very soft spot when it comes to supporting women.”
Boakye and Laura Rodriguez Amaya, assistant site director of the LBJ Institute for STEM Education, founded the Big Bang Girls STEM Club. It is meant to help middle school female students in Kumasi, Ghana.
Rodriguez and Boakye began research in 2015, and decided to organize the club. The study was meant to explore the influences of female students when selecting a STEM academic program in secondary education.
“We are very interested in working with girls early on in their education to provide experiences that can create awareness of career opportunities in STEM,” Rodriguez said. “(We want) to increase competency and just give the girls a space where they can create a community of learners that can get them excited about some of these disciplines girls usually don’t go into.”
Rodriguez and Boakye’s research found 35 percent of female students in Ghana and 38 percent in San Marcos said they did not have a role model in the STEM field.
Rodriguez and Boakye decided to devise a program that would help girls venture into STEM fields. The first step was to collect books to enhance the girls’ interest in STEM education.
“In the United States, we have summer camps, guest speakers, events after school and different ways students can engage in STEM education,” Rodriguez said. “But in Ghana, we saw there was a need to create those opportunities for students.”
Boakye decided to take it upon himself to see how many books he could collect for the girls.
He began by asking his friends, classmates and professors for books and donations. He even used his own money to ship them to Ghana.
Boakye uses his own funds to pay the science teacher in charge of the Big Bang Girls STEM Club.
Boakye helped ensure the students receive the best education by providing training to their teachers.
“When I was home in 2016, we did a teacher training course,” Boakye said. “Because some of (the teachers) only have high school diplomas and they are teaching in primary school, I gave them the needed skills because my masters is in curriculum and instruction.”
Boakye set up a GoFundMe account and has used the profits from the account to buy a computer and other supplies the girls need to run their science experiments.
Boakye hopes to open a community library where people can borrow books. He wants a teacher to be staffed so students can receive assistance.
“If we get this library built, it will help bring a lot of kids who can come there and just study for free,” Boakye said.
Skyller Walkes, associate director of disability services, and her parents have donated resources to Boakye’s future library.
“When Owusu shared his recent engagement with trying to get books and supplies to the girls in the school his grandmother founded and his mother is now directing, I thought this was a no brainer and anything I could do I’d be more than happy to help,” Walkes said.
Walkes said she believes education is the key to changing a society.
“Global liberation starts with young girls because it presents to them opportunity,” Walkes said. “More than anything, it allows them to impact change in their immediate environment and beyond.”