Maxim, a sixth-grade student of School number 2 in Čavusy, a small Belarusian town located in the Chernobyl-affected areas, says he wants a career in engineering and programming.
The school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Centre is one of Maksim’s favorite places in school and he is not alone: from elementary to high school, students take full advantage of the Сentre’s facilities to not only broaden their horizons and gain new skills, but also to increase their competitiveness towards universities’ and future job applications.
"Every year I see high school students graduate. In some cases, my students are looking for the opportunities to connect their lives with research activities…[and] I think our school STEM Center helps them find themselves in life,” says Svetlana Efimova, who teaches physics at School No 2.
The STEM Centre in Čavusy was founded with the support of UNDP and the European Union in 2016, in the framework of international technical assistance project to promotion local development in Chernobyl-affected areas of the Republic of Belarus.
Over the years, the project has proved its effectiveness in increasing the popularity of STEM activities among students.
“To work with a microscope is amazing,” says Liza, in 9th grade. “If we look at a real mold cell and compare it with what is drawn in the textbook, we see completely different pictures,” agrees Vika, in 6th grade.
"I think STEM Centres help children to keep up with the times… Such centers should be opened nationwide. They will help our country boost scientific research with huge benefits in the future," emphasizes Svetlana Efimova.
Competitive education and equal career opportunities are particularly important for youth living in the Chernobyl-affected areas and initiatives like the Čavusy STEM Centre help young people acquire and master the competences needed for a successful start in life.
“Over 25 years the results of the past and current projects have demonstrated that human capital development and youth empowerment are critical elements in the sustainable development of the Chernobyl-affected areas of Belarus,” said Alexandra Solovieva, UNDP Resident Representative in Belarus.
Photography by Sergei Gapon for UNDP Belarus.