Influence of the novel ''The River and the Source '' on secondary schoolgirls' learning of science in Kenya
Asembo, Kennedy Onyango
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Poor performance of girls in science subjects in Kenyan secondary schools has been a persistent problem. Yet, science is considered vital for the socio-economic development of the country, whose population is largely female. Research has shown that the poor performance is as a result of, among other things, psychological factors mainly influenced by gender stereotypes. In 1998, after the recommendations of the 1989/93, 1994/96, 1997/2001 National Development Plans and the 1997 National Policy on Gender and Development, which emphasized the need to strengthen women's role in the economy through education, the novel The River and the Source by Margaret Ogola, was introduced, among others, for study in secondary schools by forms three and four students. The novel explores some themes directly related to enhancing women's image as scientists and hence encourages girls' participation in science subjects. As a move towards reducing the persistent gender disparity, it is imperative that all the strategies aimed at ensuring excellence of girls in Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) science subjects are evaluated. Within this move, the study set out to investigate the role that the novel The River and the Source plays in secondary schoolgirls' learning of science. The study was conducted in Migori District, Kenya. The study adopted two research designs: a descriptive survey of ten schools, which was followed by a case study of two schools (one girls' and one coeducational). Data were collected through questionnaires, interviews, and classroom observations. The data were analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively and presented in form of tables and written narratives. The study found that the novel The River and the Source makes many secondary schoolgirls, who started off with unfavourable attitudes to like and have confidence in learning science subjects. It also makes them aim at pursuing science-related careers after school. Furthermore, the novel improves secondary schoolboys' perception of girls' learning of science subjects. Hence, it is a positive intercession. However, the novel has minimal constructive influence on poor academic performers. The study recommends that such interventions as the study of the novel should start at primary school. The study also suggests that this research should be replicated in other districts in order to give a general assessment of the whole country.