Abigail Mortey makes Ghana proud; Best STME Student in Africa

Abigail MorteyMs Abigail Buerkour Mortey, 16, has won the Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering (STME) Competition organised for the Africa Region.

The project which won her the award involved the use of a local plant mixed with shea butter to drive away mosquitoes.

The competition was organised by FAWE International in Nairobi, Kenya, recently to generate the interest of girls in Science, Mathematics and Engineering.

Ms Mortey, a Form Three student of the Adonten Senior High School (ADONSCO) at Aburi in the Eastern Region, and a student of the Aburi Girls’ SHS represented Ghana in the contest.

Originally, 36 countries were expected to participate in the competition, but because of the Ebola outbreak in parts of Africa, 38 girls, representing 16 countries, turned up for the contest.

Ms Mortey received a laptop, a mobile phone, a pen drive and a certificate of participation as her prize.

Speaking to the Junior Graphic at ADONSCO shortly after her return, Ms Mortey said prior to the regional competition, the local chapter of FAWE International had organised the national event among schools in its catchment area.

She said initially when her teachers were selecting students interested in participating in the competition, she was reluctant to join because she is a General Arts student.

However, one of her teachers encouraged her to take part in the contest, which she eventually did.

Her work

When she had to submit a project for the contest, she said, she remembered that at Adenta, a suburb of Accra where she lives, she had noticed that many people hung the leaves of a particular plant around their windows and sometimes burnt them when they were going to bed to drive away mosquitoes.

She decided to investigate what her neighbours were doing by probing further.

“I realised that I knew only the local name of the plant, ‘Opia abaa’, not its scientic name. So I informed my teacher, who took me to the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine (CSRPM) at Akuapem Mampong to research into the plant,” she said.

It was at the centre that she was informed about the scientific name of the plant, and after conducting a series of tests, it confirmed the efficacy of the plant to repel mosquitoes.

However, she did not want to end her project at the stage where users would have to burn the plant to repel mosquitoes, considering the health implications of smoke.

After considering various options, Ms Mortey said, she finally settled on processing the plant into a cream.

“I, therefore, researched into shea butter and learnt of its skin healing properties, and since it is cheaper, I settled on using it for the project,” she added.

She further explained that the main idea for her “project was to provide a product which was simple, cost effective and available and shea butter had all those qualities. Besides, it could be blended perfectly with the plant I had discovered”.

National contest

Prior to participating in the Africa Regional competition, Ms Mortey’s project had won the national contest, which involved contestants from her school, Aburi Girls’ SHS, Mamfe Methodist Girls’ SHS, the Diaspora Girls and Aburi Sec/Tech.

St Martin’s SHS had opted out.

For emerging the winner at the national contest, Ms Mortey, together with the first runner-up from Aburi Girls’ SHS, qualified to represent Ghana at the Africa Regional contest in Nairobi.

She said it came as a shock to her when she was adjudged the winner because the contestants from the other countries presented equally good projects.

“But I believe I won because my project will benefit the larger society, considering the fact that malaria is a problem on the entire continent,” she noted.

Effect on academic work

Ms Mortey said while working on her project, she frequently missed classes and her morale sank so low, as most people around her, particularly her mates, discouraged her because she was a General Arts student who was participating in a Science-related contest.

She confessed that at a point she nearly gave up, but her Science teacher, Ms Adeline Bedjabeng, would not allow her to throw in the towel and encouraged her to continue to forge ahead.

She expressed her gratitude to Mr Jude Curtis Badasu and Ms Naa Dede Quaye, both teachers of her school, as well as Dr Samuel Dadzie and Prof Maxwell Appawu, both of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, for their pieces of advice and assistance.

According to Ms Mortey, the award had honed her interest in Science, as a result of which she would want to pursue a Science-related course at the university.

Source : graphic.com.gh

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