Chemistry-in-Action kit is designed to inspire learners to study STEM subjects

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Motivating learners to engage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects requires to establish connections between those subjects and real-word applications. The CIA kit offers that by providing learners with a hands-on experience that is often lacking in the study of science in school.

This is the 1st blog in our series showcasing the winners of the African Union ‘Innovating Education in Africa’ program.

The Chemistry-in-Action (CIA) kit is a cost-effective, curriculum-aligned chemistry kit designed to motivate learners in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The kit provides learners with a hands-on experience that is often lacking in school-level study of science. The hope is that having a practical experience with study can spark interest in STEM as a future career.

Africans are underrepresented in global science, and within African countries, access to quality science education is often challenging and imbalanced. The STEM expertise currently prevalent across the African continent, does not meet its needs, and most scientific technologies and services are imported.

UNESCO and the World Bank estimate gross underrepresentation in science from African countries, and while there has been positive change in the current millennium, documentary evidence illustrates that these gains are a slow rebound from a steep decline in African contributions to science over the past four decades (Mouton, 2008).

There is great pressure on the African education system to prepare the next generation of students to compete for STEM careers. This is why it is important to instill an interest and proficiency in STEM at a relatively young age. Schools need to inspire learners, particularly those in disadvantaged schools.

When students learn concepts in an isolated and disjointed manner in science and math, they miss links to crosscutting concepts and real-world applications, leading to disinterest and a lack of engagement in STEM subjects. The learners cannot see themselves in science careers if teachers do not make the subject exciting and dynamic.

Instead of teaching content and skills and hoping students will see the connections to real-life applications, an integrated approach is needed to establish connections between STEM subjects and real-word contexts that can support content learning.

Chemistry-in-Action kit addresses the lack of science teaching resources

Engaging learners and improving teaching skills in STEM subjects, the CIA kit follows an integrated approach of: “Tell, Show, Experience and Assess.” The CIA kit’s impact has been significant, with pilot studies showing increased interest in science studies among students, improved understanding of chemistry and greater enthusiasm for STEM careers.

In the Diepsloot region of Gauteng, South Africa, for example, results were highly positive. Of the 1000 learners we engaged with, 48% of all learners and 52% of female learners indicated they would take science in their tertiary studies.

In addition, 99% of learners indicated they enjoyed the career guidance day, and a remarkable 87% said that they now have a better understanding of chemistry.

A pan-African solution

As a participant of the AU innovation Expo, we have received invaluable exposure for the CIA kit, giving us an opportunity to showcase the innovation across the African continent as a panaAfrican solution.

The innovation has been well-received by education authorities and the evaluation study was sponsored by Chemicals Seta of South Africa (CHIETA). The kit was also very well received by all funders, schools and learners involved.

In the next 12 months, the goal is to have the CIA kit be used in high schools across 3 provinces (Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng) in South Africa and to expand collaboration across education sectors in Africa.

In the context of COVID-19, the CIA kit offered a solution to the limitations of digital learning by providing hands-on, experiential learning opportunities that engage all senses, student curiosity and critical thinking.

Since the pandemic, an increased focus has been on making everything digital and available via a computer to reduce in-person contact, but how can this translate to the experiential learning needed for practical subjects like science?

Watching an experiment on a computer or having a teacher read out an experiment from a textbook cannot compare to conducting the chemical experiment yourself.

The excitement and joy experienced when an experiment is successful is a source of learning that no computer can provide.

Engaging in hands-on experiments encourages curiosity and critical thinking—vital skills for innovation and knowledge expansion. This is what we want to bring back into the classroom.

When learners do their own experiments, this can excite them about a potential future as a STEM professional.


  • Mouton J. Africa’s science decline: the challenge of building scientific institutions. Harvard Int Rev.2008;30:46–51. [Google Scholar]