Protecting Young Minds

By Peter Midwa

Did you know that our young children are a glittering reflection of creativity in science, technology and innovation? About one week has passed, and the first Young Scientists Kenya National Science and Technology Exhibition that took place at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi on 5th and 6th July 2018 is still ingrained in my memory.


It all began with the young students offering their retrospective analysis of their projects in the broad categories of physical, chemical & mathematical sciences; ecological and biological sciences; technology, and social and behavioral sciences.

As I was snooping around the exhibition, trying to see every project I could, Jane Wangari, part of the team judging the students’ projects during the competitions, told me that children are not fully aware of instances of others making all the profit out of their innovations.


Here’s what Jane had to say:

“They are [children] not aware that their innovations need to be protected, that their thoughts need to be protected. But I cannot blame them, because even at their age, I knew that there was something called copyright, but I never knew how to go about it. If I was at their shoes now, I would not know how to go about it, and that’s a dilemma for the children.”


Chweya Laban, a schoolteacher who was mainly a mentor to the students, said, “that has been one of the challenges, we have tried to look around so that we can apply for patenting, but it has been quite a challenge because it requires funds.”


What’s so obvious is that children evolve and age, yes, and life overtakes them without noticing when and how only for them to experience legal complications for their ideas after they have come of age. There needs to be an open-minded response to the consequences of not safeguarding the creativity of children, especially in the age of social media and Internet saturation.


Even so, Jane simply said that it is upon parents and teachers, and society at large, to make use of copyright offices especially with regard to innovative children.  “The copyright offices in Kenya have not been having a lot of traffic, but they should muscle themselves up, because they’ll be receiving in roves and shoves,” she added.


This poignant and thought provoking topic is gaining attention even in international media, such as American director David Fincher’s 2010 film “The Social Network” about Harvard undergraduate computer genius Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook concept, which found itself on the receiving end of two lawsuits, one involving his former friend (Andrew Garfield).


I hope that one day we will all be enlightened and approach this topic with an open mind, fighting for the life and survival of our children’s thoughts and ideas. To the young scientists out there, we’ll see you next time.


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