The Agatha Mawondo Foundation celebrates the life of one of Taita's academic trailblazers. In line with the foundation's goal to recognize those who have contributed to Taita's academic excellence, AMF would like to share this brief biography shared by Dr Shake's family.
Dr Mwamburi A. Shake, 76, of West Warwick, Rhode Island, passed away on May 1, 2020. Born in Kwa-Weni-Mwangi, Bura, Taita-Taveta, Kenya, he was the son of the late Paul Shake Mwakai and Agripina Kalamba Shake.
He leaves many dear family members, including his son Anthony R. Azersky (and Karyn Lyn Stonis) of Holliston; grandson Sawyer J. Stonis; siblings Ernest Machila, the late Christine Wazala, Gabriel Mkula, the late Esther Mcheghu, Phillip Nyambu and Yeronimi Mwakai; and Anthony's mother Carla Anastasia Azersky.
He was baptized Anthony in the Catholic Church on September 29, 1951, and through confirmation added the name Onesiphor, becoming Anthony Onesiphor Mwamburi Shake. In his community, he was always fondly known as Mwamburi.
After completing his studies, Dr Shake worked in various states in America as a psychiatrist, until his retirement. After his retirement, he continued working privately as a consultant. Dr Shake lived in America for many years.
His distance from home, notwithstanding, he left a mark back home in Taita, especially in his home area of Bura. Apart from helping several students from Taita in settling in America, he contributed substantially to several development endeavors. In particular, he was the brain behind the creation of the Greater Newburyport-Bura Alliance (GNBA). GNBA contributed immensely in community health and education projects. Examples include dispensaries in Mwashuma, Saghaighu, and Mbagha, medical equipment installations in Mwatate and Bura Health Centres, computers and books to primary and high schools, and education exchanges between people from Bura and Greater Newburyport.
Dr Shake was interred at Melrose Cemetery, Brockton, Massachusetts, USA.
Taita Scholars Blaze the Trail of Innovation
By Marangi Mbogho, Ph.D
July, 2020 | Kenya
Computer Scientist, Dr Chao Mbogho
Dr Chao Mbogho, from Kenya Methodist University was crowned the winner of the "Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World" (OWSD), for her mobile-adaptable system or computer coding used in programming innovation.
The year 2020, seems to have plenty for us to celebrate in the Taita community as recently another native from our county blaze the trail.
Malombo Mwaisakenyi Wins Award
Mr Malombo Mwaisakenyi, was in the news with an international award in another innovation based on artificial intelligence (AI).
Mr Mwaisakenyi, together with his colleague from JKUAT, were declared winners of the "2020 Imagine Cup: European, Middle Eastern and Africa (EMEA)", bagging $8,000. They will be at Microsoft Headquarters in May, 2020 for another recognition.
We celebrate the innovative achievements by our Taita youth in the global village. God in his own wisdom distributed intellectual capacity indiscriminately, irrespective of race, tribe, small or large populations, level of economic and political power. Congratulations to Mwaisakenyi and colleague.
THE STORY OF WOMEN WHO LEFT A MARK IN STEM
By Marangi Mbogho, Ph.D
January, 2020 | Kenya
In my last article posted to AMF newsletter, I devoted my views on one Katherine Johnson, whose mathematical modeling contributed to some of NASA's first exploration of space. Recently, in pursuit of prominent persons that made significant contributions to the first, second, and third industrial revolutions - it was amazing to find that, in recorded literature only male names were predominant.
The question: Was this by chance or by design? Could there have been a conspiracy to leave out female contributors to potray the female gender as intellectualy inferior? As my mind lingered on these and many other unanswered questions, my sixth sense drove me to seek answers to this lie about male dominance in innovation that, has been propagated by many cultures - "STEM subjects are difficult for womenfolk!" So, I decided to visit the Internet for any possible insights on this widely spread myth among many societies:
In the 1800s, at Harvard College Observatory, Edward Pickering sought to hire workers to calculate the relationships and exactly measure the universe. "Unfortunately, men turned down this offer, on account that this was "clerical work," not fit for men. So Pickering, hired his housemaid, one Williamina Fleming to work as a "computer" at the Observatory. This lady took the challenge and managed a team of 80 women workers who performed the computations that led to the understanding of the universe as we perseve it today. Among these pioneer women, Jean Jennings and Frances Bilas are credited for calculating rocket and trajectories by hand in 1945 - work that motivated them to set the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) in 1946.
The first programmers at Harvard, were women mathematicians, who were the brainchild of NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory. These ladies, did the calculations that plotted the ballistic trajectories, which informed the developement of the ENIAC machine, the first electrical computer. These calculations were done on behalf of the army during the WWII in 1940s, culminating to the first software program and led to the beginning of programming language. Women being good in mathematics, concentrated in developing the software, whereas men spent their efforts in building the hardware, the circuits and figuring out the machines.
Grace Hopper, christened the “mother of computing or queen of software," worked at Harvard, as part of the Navy Reserve, programming the "Mark 1" computer. She is also credited for the development of the UNIVAC 1 computer, the first business-oriented machine. She is the pioner of COBOL language. This language was useful in two ways: instructions were in English and it could work with any piece of hardware.
Annie Easley - is among the four African - American women who are the developers of hybrid car batteries. Easley, developed and implemented a code that led to the development a battery used in the first hybrid cars. She now works as a mentor in USA, motivating girls and women of color to pursue careers in STEM sector.
Mary Allen Wilkes was among collaborators who developed the first personal computer and was the first to have a personal computer at home.
She is credited with writing LINC's operating program manual and was the programmer of LAP6 operating system for LINC.
The work of Adele Goldberg inspired Steve Jobs to develop the first Apple Computer. As a researcher at Xerox Palo Research Center in 1970s, Adele in collaboration with others, built the "Small talk-80" programming language and, developed infrastructure and design for overlapping windows on display screens or "Graphic User Interface (GUI)."
An English lady, Joan Ball was the first person to devise a computer method to determine compatibility. Thereafter, she founded and managed St. Computer Dating Service and later renamed it Com-Pat. In 1964, she successfully demonstrated the first match-by-computer. This was a year earlier than the Operation Match at Harvard was launched.
Search engines, which are based on natural language processing, are the brainchild of Karen Spàrck Jones. She is credited for being the first person to use "thesauri" into language processing, allowing for computational recognition of similar words. Working as a computer scientist at Cambridge University, she introduced the idea and methods of "term weighing in information retrieval.
Elizabeth "Jake" Feinler, researching at Network Information Center (NIC), Stanford Research Institute, assisted to develop the Domain Name System (DNS), the basis of dot coms, dot nets, & dot govs used today. However, before she came up with the Internet, the ARPAnet was a series of nodes, under the Department of Defense, that connected several research institutions.
The first video game designer and programmer was Carol Shaw. She is credited with the development of: The Polo (1978); Tic-Tac-Toe (1979); Video Checkers (1980); and River Raid (1982).
Apple's signature graphics for Apple Computers were designed by Susan Kare. She also developed: Apple Clock, Pointer Finger, Trash Can, etc.
Donna Dubinsky: introduced "personal digital assistants" (PDA) to the world. Against this background she founded the following companies: PDA, Palm and Handspring (Visor PDA).
President Obama was assisted to save the Internet by Megan Smith (White House, Chief Technology Officer). She also advised the president to maintain net neutrality and endorse a free, and open Internet. Finally, she created an online resource honouring and telling the stories of women in STEM sector.
Victoria Alonso: championed and innovated the VFX industry - she is now Marvel studios' executive Vice President of physical production.
Angelica Ross: an African-American, transgender woman is the founder of Trans Tech Social Enterprises - focusing on lifting people out of poverty, through social work and technical training, and helping gender-nonconforming people get opportunities in technical roles in public and private sectors.
(source: in.mashable.com/tech/10602; 21 January 2020).
The above list of very famous ladies is by no means exhaustive, there are others, whose stories are not recorded in all cultures ansocieties of the world. It is my hope and belief that, someone, somewhere in one remote corner of our globe, after reading this piece will be inspired to bring forth the names of those women who have made incredible contributions to the development of science and technology.
Equally, those among us, whether, men, women, parents, teachers, policy makers, girls or boys and other stakeholders who will have the time to read through this piece, are encouraged to publish the names of their unsung heroes and heroines in their cultures and their parts of the world. We owe it to posterity to recognise the efforts of our sisters, mothers and wives for their invaluable contributions to science and technology, which efforts have not been recognized because of some false myth and fear of the unknown.
Further, encouraging this recognition will not only motivate girls and women to take their rightful space in STEM sector, but it will be a win-win situation for humanity, since by nature the population of the female gender is more than the male in all societies, irrespective of the level of econo-political advancement. We need to use this human resource as we navigate the disruptions of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0).
In parting, to my womenfolk readers, I strongly recommend that you spare time and read a book by Isaacson: “The History of the Digital Revolution.” Then make it your business to read about "women who programmed ENIAC Or about Grace Hopper, Or Ada Lovelace." Reading about these briliant and courageous ladies in the evolution of computing will certainly fire you up to venture into mathematics and computer science to validate the fact that programming is also suited for girls. In the fourth industrial revolution, the opportunities are plenty.
THE INSPIRING STORY OF TWO BLACK WOMEN MATHEMATICIANS
By Marangi Mbogho, Ph.D
June, 2019 | Kenya
The story of Katherine G. Johnson has similarities with that of the late Agatha Mawondo Nyange, with respect to their educational background. Whereas, Agatha Mawondo was the first African lady to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and History from Makerere College, a College of University of London in 1958 - Katherine Johnson, who despite racial discrimination and had to relocate to another suburb in West Virginia, U.S. Through hard work and support from her family, Ms. Johnson was able to graduate in 1939 summa cum laude, with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and French, as reported by IEEE Spectrum, June 2019.
Agatha Mawondo, on the other hand had to walk several miles during her earlier years in seatch of education in Taita Taveta District.
Similarly through hard work and support from her family, she managed to attend Alliance Girls High and later proceeded to Makerere University College where she eventually set her record of being the first village girl to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and History. This to some extent is what establishes the similarities of these great African achievers in Mathematics.
Our Forgotten Heroines & Heroes
The story of Katherine, like her "distance cousin" Agatha, is not known to many black Africans, because unfortunately our people have other priorities due to the socioeconomic and political circumstances facing them. Indeed, Ms Mawondo and other black African men that have distinguished themselves as scholars of no mean achievement, should have their names immortalised in the world records of eminent citizens, but instead as a community of Africans we have let them down. It is my contention that celebration of our heroines and heroes would inspire not only the current generations but also the generations to come.
Experience tells us that, young people get a lot of inspiration when they associate with examples of their own kith and kin who have made significant contributions in advancement of knowledge. Young kids in a village in Mbololo, Taita Taveta County, would be encouraged to pursue careers in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics), for example, if they visited a Science Museum or Community Library in Voi or Mwatate that has records of achievers like Agatha Mawondo, Katherine Johnson, Fadhili William, Abel Kifoto, etc.
In other countries, these kinds of institutions are held very dear, they serve as a national symbol and culturally serve as community repository of knowledge and history. This, as a people we must do, even if it is too late in the day, for the sake of prosperity.
Katherine's Contribution to the USA Space Program
So how did Katherine contribute to America’s space program? The story is that, after graduating in 1939, she was selected as the first black woman to attend graduate school program at West Virginia University, in Morgan town, but withdrew after one semester to start a family with Johnson. Then in 1953 she was employed at National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), at its Langley laboratory in Hampton, Va, as a pool mathematician. At NACA she participated in data analysis from flight tests and aeroplane black boxes.
The launch of Sputnik in 1957 by Soviet Union sparked unprecedented space competition between USA and Russia - although the US government was already planning to send a satellite into space. However, the success of Sputnik led the US to establish NASA and because of Katherine’s exemplary work at NACA, she was among the first employees to be hired by NASA in 1958.
Ms. Johnson’s first major contribution at NASA was calculation of the flight path for Astronaut Alan. She was also the lead mathematician in calculating the flight path for USA’s “Freedom Mission” in 1961, America’s first human space flight. Further, Katherine was lead mathematician in the design of "Friendship Mission," piloted by John Glenn in 1962. Finally, Katherine’s mathemaical calculations of orbital mechanics at NASA were very critical to the success of “Friendship 7” that landed in the moon in 1969 (source: IEEE Spectrum, 14th June, 2019).
Though belatedly, I have penned this article in order to congratulate Katherine who turned 100 years in August 2018. May the good Lord shower her with good health and energy to keep the flame for African academic achievers burning. This should be a challenge to all young black people to ask themselves: If Katherine could do it under those racist circumstances, what excuses do we have not to do even better with all the abundance and Gods blessings!
Interswitch Launches Science Contest for Form Three Students
By Dr. Marangi Mbogho
Founder and Secretary
April, 2019 | Kenya
It was reported in the Business Daily of April 8, 2019 that Interswitch Group has launched a "Science Competition for Form Three students in public and private secondary schools in Kenya, where the winner will receive Ksh 1.5 million worth of university scholarship."
The Group Chief Product officer of Interswitch, Mrs Cherry Eromosele, explained that individual schools should nominate 6 students for the competition from which the top 54 will be selected after a written examination in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics.
Each subject will have 25 questions and the test will take One Hour and Fifteen Minutes (75 Minutes). The objective of this competition to encourage girls to enroll for "science and technology-oriented courses in the universities." Further, the top 54 students selected, will travel to Nigeria for an oral examination that will determine the 9 best in Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics(STEM) subjects in June 2019.
Interested schools can register their students on an "InterswitchSPAK portal." Registration closes on May 5, 2019 while the written examination will be held a week later across 50 centres countrywide. Students who take positions 2 and 3 will be awarded Ksh 750,000 and Ksh 150,000 worth of university scholarships respectively, a laptop and monthly stipend throughout their stay at the universities.
The main partner in this project is the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO) and the project targets a total of approximately 20,000 students countrywide. Further, data from UNESCO shows that only 22% of the Kenyan students enrolled in universities STEM-related courses compared to the global comprise 35% with lower numbers for women science researchers. UNESCO further notes that only 14% of researchers in natural sciences are women, while only 11% are in engineering and technology (John Mutua, The Business Daily, pg 18, Monday 8, 2019).
We at Agatha Mawondo Foundation (AMF), would like to appeal to all public and private secondary schools head teachers in Taita Taveta County to move fast and nominate their top 6 students in form three and register them for this important competition. The return on investment is enormous and the possibilities are plenty. In fact, as Trustees of AMF we would be very proud if among the candidates are several young indigenous girls from the County, this is because the objective of establishing the Foundation was to honour the late Agatha Mawondo for being the first girl in east and central Africa to graduate with a Bachelors degree in Sciences from Makerere University -These facts about Agatha and our activities are well captured in the website: agathamawondo.com, which we encourage all education stakeholders in the County to visit.
Further, the importance of the youth venturing in STEM subjects is given credence by the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0, which is here with us, and let me endeavour to provide some background information. Industry 4.0 is based on: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data. In computer science, AI - sometimes is referred to as machine intelligence, or intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals (Wikipedia).
In our day to day use - all search engines, for example, Google decides what kind of search results to give us based on who it thinks we are. So then, what really is "intelligence?" In ordinary language, it is gathering data or information and using the same to make predictions in the short and long run. This data or information applies to both people and machines. Therefore, in practical terms when we discuss AI in our daily lives, we are talking about all sorts of things from computer being able to read a handwritten document to a robot performing a very complicated surgery on its own; to a large database categorizing your personality based on what you have written and looked online. In future the following jobs will be taken over by AI-based technology systems: cashiers, receptionists, bank tellers, journalists, truck drivers and food delivery among others.
The IoT is the next most important technology revolution after the invention of internent. It will have a serious impact on lives and could possibly lead to the improvement of millions of lives across the globe and beyond. Cisco estimates that over 50 million devices are expected to be connected to IoT by 2020. Healthcare, logistics, aviation, education, IT, etc and IoT will be an integral part of these sectors - so the youth must be armed with pre-requisite skills in order to navigate through this unstoppable disruption to the status quo.
The Big Data - is a term that describes large volumes of data, both structured and unstructured, that confronts governments and businesses on a day - to - day basis. Underneath these volumes of data there are insights that need to be analysed for population planning, youth unemployment, food security, education planning, family planning, economic growth, et cetera et cetera. Other examples of big data, that students come across daily in their social engagements are: Google search index and the database of Facebook user profiles.
The most common example of the disruption or impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is illustrated by the introduction of MPESA in the formal financial systems in Kenya - "mama mboga" can now transact business without opening an account with any commercial bank; parents can pay school fees at the comfort of their homes in the village - we are already living the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Kenya. The Interswitch Science Contest for Form Three Students is one opportunity we cannot deny our youth to partake. Over to you, the Taita Taveta County education community!
Agatha Mawondo Foundation Provides 40 Scholarships to Pitch Africa National Youth Pitch Competition
By Mkawasi Mcharo Hall
March 18, 2019 | Kenya
This year, AMF started a partnership with the StartUp Africa organization based in Delaware, USA. AMF gave one-day scholarships to 40 students to attend the Pitch-Africa Competition, an initiative of StartUp Africa that gets students across the country to come up with innovative projects and pitch them before a panel of judges and fellow students. This year, the competition was held on January 26, 2019 at the Taita Taveta University.
Dr Marangi Mbogho, Secretary of AMF, worked hard to ensure the sponsored students were reached and provided with transport to and from the event, in partnership with their schools’ administration.
Dr. Marangi also coordinated closely with Mr. Simon Wanjohi, County Director of Education, to win the support of the local government. It is important that citizen-driven initiatives are supported by local and national government for the good of the community. Dr. Marangi also served as one of the judges who adjudicated the student’s projects.
The AMF Pitch-Africa scholarship students observed fellow students from across the country as they pitched their innovations. They were also served breakfast, lunch and evening tea. Their interaction with fellow future entrepreneurs gave them much inspiration. It is the goal of AMF to provide Taita Taveta County students with experiences that make them better learners, inspired citizens, and practical thinkers. Our vision of "achieving academic excellence in Taita-Taveta County" was well served.
Last year, a team from Kajire Girls in Taita-Taveta County won the competition and proceeded to make a pitch for their invention – the Ndovu Care – at the University of Delaware in the United States. This brought us great pride.
This year, ten projects were selected to benefit from a fully-funded residential training at Kenyatta University in April, 2019.
Pitch-Africa is the nation's largest entrepreneurship conference targeting high school students. It brings together hundreds of students, teachers, and other supporters to different locations annually for a one day event to learn from experts in entrepreneurship, innovation and workforce readiness to develop new skills. - startupafrica.org/pitchafrica
The Agatha Mawondo Foundation works to inspire a generation of trailblazers by giving them a chance to excel through scholarship opportunities.
After the Bombolulu Girls High School fire tragedy in 1997, the Government established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the cause of the fire. This commission was headed by Retired Bishop Imathiu of the Methodist Church of Kenya.
The appointed Commissioners were - the late Ambassador, Japhet Kiti; educationist, Dr. Eddah Gachukia; law maker, Samuel Ng'eny; scholar, Dr. Marangi Mbogho and other prominent Kenyans.
During an evening chat at Serena Beach Hotel in Mombasa, a heated debate between Ambassador Kiti and Dr. Gachukia arose. It was about poor academic performance in the Coast Province. Ambassador Kiti mentioned that notwithstanding the persistent poor academic performance in recent years, the first Kenyan lady in East and Central Africa to graduate with a BA from Makerere University College in 1958, was one, Agatha Susan Mawondo, from Taita Taveta District, in Coast Province.
Further, the student who scored the highest marks nationally in the 2010 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination was one, Lydia Katini Mwangasha from Taita-Taveta County. This news brought a lot of excitement among the Taita community and threw the County into a frenzy of joy and celebrations not witnessed in recent times. "The 17-year-old has not only put Taita-Taveta in the limelight, but has also jolted the region from academic slumber." The Standard, 11 March, 2011.
The phenomenal achievements of Agatha Mawondo in 1958 and Lydia Mwangasha in 2011 inspired Dr. Marangi Mbogho to establish the Agatha Mawondo Foundation, with the main objective being to create bursaries in aid of the many financially needy students in Taita Taveta County. The Foundation seeks to conclude that 1997 intense debate in Mombasa, by showing that the County is not lacking in intellectual capacity, but in opportunities that will allow students to learn without disruption. The ever crippling socio-economic hardships contribute greatly to poor performance in education.
On March 4th, 2011, Dr Marangi Mbogho called Agatha Mawondo, introduced himself, and the idea of establishing a Foundation in her honour.
Ms. Mawondo was most humbled by this proposal and broke down momentarily, due to the joy of an unknown person honouring her achievement that late in her life and using it for the greater good.
She gave her consent and the seed of the Agatha Mawondo Foundation was planted upon the historic achievements of two humble daughters from the Taita community.
The Agatha Mawondo Foundation has already started its mission by offering a partial scholarship to its first beneficiary, John Mwachia, of Voi Boys Secondary School. We aim to benefit as many needy students as possible so they can stay in school and graduate with distinction. In partnership with school Principals, County Directors of Education and Teacher Service Commission, the AMF has identified some of the neediest students and hopes to offer partial or full scholarships.