Blog

scholarship emerges in africa

"As universities on the continent grow stronger, research and science with a particular emphasis on practical results to aid national development are on the upswing. But can this trend continue, given the pressures to Westernize?"

This article by Kenneth Walker provides insightful stories about science in africa. It presents personal experience and views from scholar such as Monty Jones, Keto Mshigeni, Ruth Oniang, Klauss Rottman, Daniel Mtaengo etc..

I found Mshigeni’s story about seaweed particularly enlightening:
"Dr. Keto Mshigeni, professor of marine botany at the University of Namibia, is one of the new breed of African scientists. Mshigeni has, like Jones, single-handedly created new industries for Africa’s subsistence farmers. His work has launched mushroom and seaweed farming industries where none existed before, creating jobs for mostly previously unemployed women in East and West Africa.

In Zanzibar and in Mshigeni’s native Tanzania, 40,000 women are now farming seaweed, which in some form is probably consumed by virtually everyone on earth. It is used in a wide variety of pharmaceutical and food products, including yogurt, toothpaste, shaving cream and ice cream. From zero seven years ago, the export industry in Tanzania is now valued at $20 million annually. Mshigeni believes the kind of farming that has been spurred by his research would be sustainable in all the coastal countries of the continent.

For his work on seaweed, Mshigeni has been awarded the UN’s Boutros Boutros-Ghali Prize. But he says the biggest reward for him is to see how his work has resulted in an improved quality of life for the women who have become seaweed farmers. "

you can read the article at:

http://www.carnegie.org/reporter/09/scholarship/index.html

Petnica International Science School (PI 2007)

Petnica International Science School (PI 2007)

August 18-30, 2007

Petnica Science Center (Serbia)

PI 2007 is a summer program devoted to out-of-school science education. The focus of this year's program will be on critical and creative thinking and approaches in science and scientific research. Our goal is to gather
gifted, inquisitive, open-minded students motivated for scientific research, and to give them a short but intensive course on systematical problem solving.

The aim of the course is to equip students with the basic skills for evaluating and dealing with arguments, manipulating ideas, and the proper application of knowledge, through lectures, practical exercises and tasks that require analytical and problem-solving skills. Students are encouraged to think independently, be creative and exercise their presentation skills. During the course students are introduced to various
research methods (observation, measurement, experiment, simulation, results analysis, interpretation etc.) and then asked to apply these methods in the realization of small scale scientific projects under the supervision of
professional scientists. The suggested fields of research are astronomy, biology, ecology, linguistics, physics and psychology.

PI is organized and hosted by Petnica Science Center, the biggest independent nonprofit organization for out-of-school science education in SE Europe. Since 1982 Petnica has organized nearly 2,200 programs (seminars, workshops, research camps etc.) for 40,000 students and science teachers. All Petnica programs rely on its wide network of associates (over 1,500 professional scientists, successful amateurs, promoters of
science, science teachers etc.) in the country and abroad.

All students aged 17-20 (regardless of the type of school they attend or their nationality) are eligible to apply for PI 2007. The main criteria for admission are motivation for out-of-school learning and a demonstrated
interest in science and independent thinking. School results are important, but they are not a discriminative factor; an open and inquisitive mind and being ready to engage in intensive work are much more important!

Interested students should complete the student application form, write a personal statement, and provide two letters of recommendation. The personal statement should list your interests and explain why you would like to attend PI 2007, as well as anything else you think is important for us to know when selecting the right candidates - be creative. All registration materials should be submitted no later than June 1, 2007.

The program fee including tuition, learning materials, accommodation, meals, admittance to the recreation center and field trips, is 500. There are no application fees.

For more information, please visit http://www.psc.ac.yu/pi/

Or write to pi(at)psc.ac.yu or acaob(at)psc.ac.yu

New Status for the South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences

SAJEMS is one of only a select few journals in the field of economic and management sciences in Africa with international accrediation by Thompson ISI.
A special issue on environmental resource and ecological economics is planned for December 2007.
For further information email sajems@up.ac.za.

EFFECT OF YOHIMBE ON THE BRAIN

NEUROSCIENCE

Building Science Centers in African Academies of Science

Hello Everyone,

My name is Mande. I'm a postdoc in the US who is interested in creating science centers in several African Academies of Science. I have a fairly well developed plan that has been discussed with several people and now am in the position to submit a grant proposal to fund the project.

I writing to inquire if there are members of the WAYS Africa community who would be interested in joining the project.

To briefly summarize the idea is to add a room to regional/national science academies throughout Africa that would serve as a scientific hub to exhibit, propagate, and disseminate knowledge about the research of academy members and other local scientists to the community.

The room would be used as a place where members of the academy and other local scientists showcase science via exhibitions, interactive web programs, and seminars. The room would serve two purposes:

1. Open the regional/national academies to the public and emerging scientists in the community

2. Improve internet accessibility via connections with online programs

If you are interested please contact me by responding to this email or directly at mande.holford (at) gmail.com

Thank you for your attention,
Mande

une section de WAYS en francais (the french chapter)

Bonjour a tous,

Lors du premier meeting de WAYS-Africa qui s'est tenu à Pretoria il y a deux semaines, le problème de la langue a (de nouveau) été évoqué.

Si il est clair qu'il n'est désormais plus possible d'envisager une carrière scientifique sérieuse sans un bon niveau d'anglais, un site WAYS uniquement anglophone exclut plus qu'il n'aide. Il s'agit donc de sensibiliser et de faciliter au mieux l'acquisition de la langue.

Pour les jeunes scientifiques en particulier, WAYS peut mettre en place des passerelles entre les différentes langues en usage dans la communauté scientifique africaine: anglais, francais, portuguais voir l'arabe.

C'est un véritable serpent de mer depuis Marrakech qui concerne l'Afrique de l'Ouest dans son ensemble, d'où le double post: afrique et pays arabes.

Avec WAYS2.0 nous sommes peut être enfin en mesure de l'approcher et je souhaiterais recueillir votre avis sur la meilleure facon de le faire: pour l'instant chacun est libre de poster sur les blog dans la langue qui lui convient.

est ce la meilleure solution?
devons nous organiser cette approche babélienne? et si oui quelle serait la méthode la plus efficace?

je termine par un petit résumé du problème tel que je le percoit:
il s'agit d'aider au mieux l'intégration de la communauté francophone sur le site de WAYS en évitant cloisonnement et repli.
Cela pose le probleme de la traduction, de l'apprentissage, et de la synchronisation des contenus.

J'attire votre attention sur le problème à éviter:
un WAYS bis tout en francais pourrait pousser les membres francophones à se laisser douillettement dorloter au lieu de se saisir du verbe de Shakespeare.

ouat dou iou sinque?
a vous lire!
Gaell

Introducing a new Network for Polar Early Career Scientists and Engineers!

Are you a graduate student, postdoc, a starting professor or even an undergraduate student involved in polar or cryosphere research? The Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) is made for you!

APECS is a new initiative that aims to bring together early career scientists from around the world who share an interest in the Polar Regions and the Cryosphere as a whole. The mission is to raise the profile of polar scientists by providing a continuum of leadership that is both internationally and interdisciplinarily focused.

An interactive website has been established to serve as the main contact point for APECS members and provides a forum to share news, connect with other polar researchers, and find jobs and events that might be of interest. APECS is an endorsed International Polar Year project and the official early career association recognized.

Visit APECS at www.kent.edu/Polar

Who are We?

Because of increasing concern about climate and the escalating changes in Polar Regions and the cryosphere, it is imperative that young scientists and engineers develop collaborations with international counterparts as well as researchers in other disciplines to address questions facing these regions that play such an important role for the function of this Planet. The International Polar Year (IPY) comes at a time when focus on the Poles is a pressing concern. The IPY aims to create large international and interdisciplinary research addressing the delicate Polar Regions on Earth and to increase the general public’s awareness, understanding, and importance of these ecosystems. The APECS organization taps into the momentum surrounding the IPY to unite early career researchers in a network that ensures the development of international and interdisciplinary collaborations early in our careers that will last well beyond the IPY.

APECS was founded by three early career scientists in 2006, as a directive from the International Polar Year international office; Dr. Jenny Baeseman – a microbial ecologist studying life in extreme environments – with the help of Hugues Lantuit – a permafrost researcher – and Dr. Rhian Salmon – an atmospheric chemist and the Education and Outreach coordinator for the IPY. This network represents people with a wide range of scientific expertise and interests including glaciology, geology, anthropology, sociology, atmospheric science, oceanography, polar biology, culture and heritage studies, linguistics, space studies, biogeochemistry, and paleontology, as well as studies in the broader cryosphere.

Who can join?

Membership in APECS is open to all early career scientists interested in natural and social sciences of Polar Regions, from undergraduates through assistant professors or equivalent for non-academic positions. Participation by engineers and those interested in the cryosphere in general is also being sought. We encourage senior scientists to register on the APECS website and serve as mentors for the organization as well as post job openings and events at their institutions. All pages on the website are public except the discussion forums, which are open only to members of APECS. Being a member gives you advantages: you can post information to the site, participate in discussion boards, network with other researchers through the membership database, as well as receive periodic updates from the APECS organization. For more information or to get involved in APECS and start your international and interdisciplinary collaborations today, visit http://www.kent.edu/Polar or email APECS@kent.edu?

Future plans:

APECS will be sponsoring several early career gatherings at IPY events and major research conferences around the world during the International Polar Year. For more information on hosting these events or to suggest a conference where a gathering of early career scientists would be welcome, email Jenny Baeseman at jbaesema@kent.edu

East African Quaternary Research Association (EAQUA) Inaugural Workshop

I have spoken to one of the organizers of the above workshop (which is scheduled for 7-8th June 2007 in Kampala) which is under INQUA, informing him that I will be representing WAYS-Africa at that meeting, as assigned in the first executive committee meeting. I am yet to finalize the details of requirements for participation. I will keep you informed of the developments.

Thanks.
Kenneth.

Challenges of Science Education in Africa; the Ugandan Scene.

Introduction

The development of a modern civilization has a lot to do with advancement of science and technology. The quality of science education directly impacts on the extent of growth and development of science and technology. Consequently, it becomes evident that the amount of resources a nation or country puts into science teaching and research determines, to a fair extent, the level of scientific and technological advancement. Quality teaching of practical science is expensive. It is even more expensive to conduct research in science. In Africa, the private sector is not financially up to the task of execution of quality cutting edge research in science. It requires interplay of a strong private sector and keen interest and support from government. It is therefore important that African countries critically review their positions, support and involvement in programs that enhance science and technology.

The brains to excel in science are nurtured right from the early stages of learning. Africa has, over the years, produced these problem-solving brains. Some of them have their education completed here. Others have their advanced studies done in the developed countries. A good number of them leave Africa in search of greener pastures. It is important that the education system, instruction materials and teaching staff in Africa are of high quality. Working conditions that stimulate cutting edge science research need to be put in place to reduce brain drain. This can be possible with support from highly enthusiastic government organs that are charged with ensuring quality education and advancement of science. This presentation gives a brief overview of the state of science education in Uganda and gives a few suggestions to the way forward for science in Africa. This is based on the assumption that African countries and, indeed, most of the developing countries have a lot in common with the Ugandan situation.

Challenges of science in Uganda’s education system

Primary Education

The primary section is comprised of seven levels/years/forms of study. This is uniform in all government aided schools, except for private schools which may have nursery/kindergarten in addition. The curriculum mainly consists of Mathematics, English, Science and Social studies. Science at this level is mainly if not exclusively theoretical. The recent introduction of Universal primary education saw the teacher to pupil ratio greatly reduced. The increase in enrollment is not commensurate with the existing infrastructure. In some schools, make-shift classrooms have been improvised due to lack of proper and sizable buildings. These problems, coupled with poor remuneration of teachers lead to inefficient teaching and learning. Whereas some pupils make it to the good schools, most of which are privately owned, the majority of the Ugandan pupils are from poor families and can only access public schools which are less equipped to cater for the large numbers of pupils. For a large fraction of the primary going pupils, the development of scientific skills is crippled at an early stage in their academic life due to problems such as those highlighted above.

Secondary School Education.

The education system, especially in secondary school, is characterized by teaching a wide range of subjects in the ordinary level (up to 19 in some schools). This leads to a more theoretical coverage of subject material. The situation is not improved by the low teacher to student ratio, especially in most of the public schools.

The few teachers on the government payroll are poorly remunerated. As a result, most of them take up part-time employment or private business enterprises in order to make ends meet. This sees their commitment to the teaching of science (which demands for sacrifice) greatly reduced. Therefore, even the few available resources for teaching of science are not put to use.

There are few science laboratories in secondary schools. A good number of these are ill equipped. Most private schools do not seriously handle science disciplines. All these do not only deny the students the chance to acquire scientific practical skills, but also kills their interest in science disciplines. The other disheartening issue is the fact that the national examination board assumes an ideal situation and sets the same national exam without regard for the local conditions of study in each school.

University Education

The above scenario translates into a very small percentage of students joining University for science courses. A small percentage of these students are on government sponsorship.

University science education in Uganda is not devoid of problems that hamper the effective imparting of knowledge and practical skills to these few science students. A few of these problems include the following:

There is poor remuneration of university staff and simultaneous deliberate attraction of the same staff into politics. This creates “internal brain drain” leaving departments with limited highly skilled manpower to train other scientists and engage in research. Other staffs seek greener pastures which in most cases are not geared towards science development. This means that the number of research projects going on in the university is greatly reduced.

Their few organizations in the private sector which support research in science. There is no government sponsorship for postgraduate studies. Government puts in little or no effort to solicit for funding for research projects. Individual researchers struggle on their own to obtain sponsors for projects within the researchers’ interests. Because sponsors provide limited funds specifically for the research project, it is increasingly difficult to develop capacity to create continuity within departments. There are minimal efforts by government to establish schemes for this capacity development.

Institutions do not enthusiastically promote collaborative research, be it interdepartmental or interuniversity within the country, region or even further. This in effect reduces the quality of research done in these institutions.

Students study to get degrees and seek jobs. There hasn’t been much emphasis on publication of research findings. This impedes quality research and dissemination of knowledge to the international community. Therefore we have more theses/dissertations than publications from the work they do.

Other challenges to science development in Uganda include the following:

The presence of internal and external conflicts, such as wars, has led to the resources allocated to education and research to be greatly reduced. The allocation of resources is further influenced by politics which in most cases never consider science development and research. A look at budget allocation to the ministry of education for the fiscal years 2003/2004 and 2004/2005 (Table below) confirms the limited support for University education to conduct meaningful research.

Table 1. Education Sector Shares By Sub Shares By % FY 2003/2004 – 2004/2005

Sub sector FY 2003/2004 FY 2004/2005
Primary Education 68.4% 66.2%
Secondary Education 14.9% 16.7%
BTVET 3.9% 3.7%
Tertiary Education 9.9% 10.8%
Other (including universities) 2.9% 2.6%

Source: Ministry of Education and Sports, Planning Department.

NB: During the financial year 2004/2005, the education sector budget share of the GDP was 24.1% while the education sector share was 31.2% of the national discretionary recurrent budget.

Due to varying socio-economic situations in different parts of the country, it is difficult equally implement the same educational programs in these parts. For example, Karamoja (north eastern Uganda) has the “Alternative Education for Karamoja” deemed the best suitable for this region. Some of these factors make it extremely difficult to have quality education, later on quality scientific principles.

The inability for government and the responsible authorities to ensure optimum operating conditions that support the smooth conducting of research e.g. constant electric power supply.

There is misappropriation of funds by people in positions that are meant to foster science research and technology. This is not helped by the lack of vigilance, on the government side, in combating such behaviors.
It is my hope that the situation will improve sooner than later though there are few signs of a bright near future. What’s the situation in other African countries???

What is government doing to support science?

Government though is not entirely silent on improving the science education. The following are some of the attempts by government to promote science in the country:

With effect from 2006, the government made the study of science subjects, namely; physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics compulsory for ordinary level of secondary school. Although this is a good idea, it is still difficult to be done efficiently given the limited resources available for science instruction in most of the schools.

Government plans to construct central science laboratories for secondary school education. These are to be optimally equipped with apparatus chemicals and staff so that schools with poorly equipped laboratories can access these central laboratories for practical lessons. However it remains to be seen whether this plan will be implemented since there is no timeline set.

In his budget speech for the fiscal year 2006/2007, the minister of Finance, planning and economic development, Dr.Ezra Suruma mentioned that government has prioritized the provision of support to scientists who are undertaking research and innovations related to the country’s production processes. In the budget, Shs 8 billion was provided towards research in banana development, fruit juice processing, and malaria research. He also mentioned that in addition, Government had negotiated a five-year US$ 30 million project under the Millennium Science Initiative funded by the World Bank, to support research, education and training in science and technology with linkages to the industry. He said that work on strengthening the Uganda Industrial Research Institute, under this project had already started.

Government has recently (2006) accepted to increase on the salary of the academic staff in public universities. This was, however, after the academic staff at Makerere University had gone on strike, leading to a temporary closure of the University. So if remuneration of the staff is to be improved after such scenarios, then we cannot expect the output of similar quality and magnitude to that of a well motivated staff.

Government is in the process of establishing technical colleges and polytechnics to impart practical skills to school leavers so that they can be economically productive.

What can/should be done?

Government should take a leading role in promoting scientific research in higher institutions of learning. This can be through project sponsorship, scholarships to science students, and loan schemes for postgraduate students engaged in science research. They should help solicit for research grants on behalf of research organizations to supplement the efforts of the individual researchers.

Government should appropriately remunerate academic staff at institutions of learning.
Institutions should engage in collaborative research. Researchers should establish forums, such as WAYS, ANCAP, NUSESA e.t.c, through which they could share knowledge and experiences. South – south and north – south collaboration is important and it would be much easier if our governments took keen interest in supporting these issues. This could enable one to gain access to better technologies easily and cheaply without necessarily having to own them.

Regular meets, fellowships and conferences offer a unique experience in as far as dissemination of knowledge is concerned. Scientists involved in research should frequently organize these meets. Efforts should be made to improve access to high impact science journals, especially to universities and research organizations.

It is important that young scientists in Africa get to have the passion to do quality research and efforts should be made to attract as many as possible since the future of science in this naturally gifted continent largely depends on the activity of the young generation.

Conclusion

One can only reap where he sows. The excellence of science research and technology requires excellent training in scientific skills. This calls for concerted efforts between the private sector and government to greatly improve the education system right from the primary level to the tertiary level. The teaching of science and research are expensive ventures which require governments to try as much as possible to improve the systems. Sharing of information and instrumentation is vital for the development of science in Africa. This justifies the need for collaborative research, conferences, training workshops and networks such as WAYS e.t.c. through which experiences can be shared. It is upon us the young scientists to strive to uplift the standard and frequency of such fora for the future of science and technology is largely dependent on the performance of our generation.

References:

The National Report on the Development of Education in Uganda at the Beginning Of The 21st Century: Report to the 47th Session of the International Conference on Education, Geneva, Switzerland 8th-11th September 2004; Ministry Of Education And Sports, Uganda.

Budget Speech; Financial Year 2006/07, delivered at the Meeting of the 1st Session of The 8th Parliament of Uganda at The Parliament Buildings on Thursday, 15th June, 2006 by Honourable Dr. Ezra Suruma Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
UGANDA: Changing attitudes to education in Karamoja; UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, IRIN News.org.
Margarita Focas Licht (2000); Alternative Basic Education for Karamoja (ABEK) – Uganda. EENET Newsletters : Newsletter 4 Contents.

Newspaper (Mauritius) article in french for WAYS AFRICA

"LES AFRICAINS SE SAUVERONT EUX-MÊMES" !
Gérard Cateaux

Le 6 mars 1957, voila 50 ans jour pour jour, le Ghana devint le premier Etat africain indépendant sous l'impulsion d'Osagyefo Kwame Nkrhuma. Et cet apôtre de l'idéologie pan-africaniste devrait ouvrir la voie à toutes les colonies africaines vers leur indépendance.

Nkrumah a été l'inspirateur de ce grand mouvement de progressistes qui voulait en finir avec la colonisation, gommer la période lourde et chargée de l'esclavage africain. Il a inspiré les Aboubakar Tafewa Balewa du Nigeria, Sékou Touré de la Guinée, Milton Obote de l'Ouganda, Julius Nyerere de la Tanzanie, Kenneth Kuanda de la Zambie, Ben Bella l'Algérien, Philibert Tsiranana le Malgache et Seewoosagur Ramgoolam le Mauricien, pour ne mentionner qu'eux...

Cinquante ans après, le continent africain se cherche encore une voie quant à son développement. La misère se multiplie, de même que les pandémies. Les anciennes puissances coloniales continuent à exploiter les matières premières qui s'y trouvent. On y installe de nouvelles colonies avec la complicité de nouveaux dirigeants qui ont fait de la corruption leur fond de commerce. L'ex-empereur auto proclamé centrafricain possédait, de son vivant, des châteaux en France. Idem pour l'ancien président malgache Didier Ratsiraka.

L'Afrique a été un continent spolié avant et après l'indépendance des États qui la composaient. Et, pourtant, elle dispose d'un vaste réservoir de ressources naturelles et humaines. Le Plan d'action de Lagos disait ceci : "L'atout majeur de l'Afrique étant constitué par ses ressources humaines, la mobilisation pleine et entière et l'utilisation efficace de la main-d'œuvre (hommes, femmes et jeunes formés ou non) devraient être un instrument de premier ordre au service du développement national et du progrès social."

Ce dont souffre l'Afrique, depuis trop d'années, c'est cette insuffisance en personnel de professions libérales et scientifiques, en cadres, en gestionnaires et en techniciens qualifiés. Quand ils ne vont pas ailleurs. Une dépêche de presse nous apprend qu'il y aurait davantage d'infirmiers, d'infirmières et de médecins Ghanéens en Grande-Bretagne qu'au Ghana...

Je voudrais vous référer à un ouvrage de Jean-Paul Benoît qui, dans son ouvrage intitulé Indispensable Afrique, une nouvelle politique de coopération, nous offre une piste de réflexion. Il est d'avis que : "Parmi les impératifs qui s'imposent, celui d'un effort de maximum sur la formation des hommes est vital. L'Afrique a besoin de cadres administratifs, économiques, d'ingénieurs, de spécialistes de l'agriculture, d'animateurs ruraux. C'est dans cette voie qu'il faut s'engager en commun. Les Africains se sauveront eux-mêmes..."

The Scholar Ship /WAYS - AFRICA

Dear EC members,

I have already sent a proposal of the project for preliminary discussions in the Spider board. I will keep you posted of the resuls.

Archana

Report of Launching

Dear EC members could we complete the report by 04 April as discussed in Pretoria.
But first Shadrack has to re-write the document and post it on the wiki.

Archana

Nigerian Community of Young Scientists

As vantage stakeholder in the development of our respective economies, we have created a new network for Nigerian young scientists across the globe. Please visit www.nicoys.net.ng to know what the "NIgerian Community of Young Scientists" is all about.
regards,
Idowu Ola
www.nicoys.net.ng

YASMIN discussion on culture and nanotechnology, art and climate change

greetings

I am an astronomer and one of the moderators
of the YASMIN network of artists, scientists
and engineers around the mediterranean ( I
live in Marseille)

http://www.media.uoa.gr/yasmin

we are tring to involve researchers or cultural
professionals in our ongoing discussion about culture and
nanotechnology, and also art and climate change

we would welcome participation from WAYS researchers

roger malina
rmalina@prontomail.com

publicity

Dear EC
I will prepare a brief summary/description of the WAYS Africa launch/regional assembly for posting to the ICSU Africa website.
Henry, I can organise for Linda Nordling of Research Africa to interview you telephonically.
I will be out of the office until after Easter.

Hope the Easter bunny brings you all plenty of chocolates!
Janine