What if Africa were to become the Hub of Science for global science? Will or can the next Einstein come from the continent?
Those were some of the questions from people that gathered for Science Africa, a BBC science festival from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. It ran from 24 March to 29 March, 2013. Much of the content was broadcast on the BBC World Service.
Science in Africa has been looked at as an almost impossible task to tackle. Uganda hitherto imports everything including matchboxes and safety pins. These are the things that people view as ‘easy to make’ in terms of manufacturing but that is when Science comes in.
A number of issues were tackled during the Science week. Very key and vital questions like: Is Science going to be the driving force for the development of Africa? Has science in Africa had any impact, and how scientific research in Africa will contribute to the Global Agenda? were paused for the local and global audience. A few other areas like health and agriculture were discussed as well.
Agatha Turyagenda was one of the panelists at the Science Fair whose views were heard for two days. A student of Computer Science at Makerere University; she said this about the Fair: “It was also very inspiring to listen to these participants express the confidence in the capabilities of the genius young talent being bloomed in Uganda and Africa, and the baby steps that are being taken in different parts of Africa to use science in the development and solving of Africa’s current challenges.”
Uganda and Africa have lots of challenges in making science a priority. For example: The science curriculum that is taught in Ugandan schools is obsolete, and does not emphasize the practicality of science in the everyday lives. There are technical and vocational schools but they are not given much attention.
Agatha says that there is a lack of collaboration between the private sector/industry with universities unlike in the more developed countries which fund scientific and technological research to advance their industries. Those are some of the biggest challenges of science in Africa
The hardest part though for Agatha and the other girls have been that the science field is and has been for a long time predominately male. Thus they are faced with a challenge of having to constantly prove that they are as capable as the male in the discipline.
Can we solve this Science issue just yet? No. It is a process. Agatha highlighted a few solutions to me during some of the discussions.
Governments need to invest more in research and development in all the different areas for example health, food, education, economy, and also increase infrastructure for science in the schools. Secondary schools need to have functional science laboratories.
More emphasis needs to be put on encouraging more female participation in science and technology through the use of mentoring by the few women scientists that have made great achievements. Mentorship is an ‘all time’ important. The sharing of knowledge by people who are versed in the sciences is very important.
Universities should start collaborations with the local private sectors/ industry and also mentor the secondary schools in a problem–solving based education to open up their minds at a tender age.
The government also needs to start collaborations with universities in more advanced countries in order to mentor young students in current technologies, since they have the required expertise.
The future is in the young brains. The future lies in young enthusiastic minds like Agatha and so many who believe that the next Einstein can and will come from Africa. They have dreams that they want to pursue for the future benefits of their country. ‘I see myself actively participating in using already existing technologies to solve the problems of my country, especially in the area of electronics and the computer security, considering the rise of cyber-attacks around the world.’ Agatha says. These are the thoughts that keep the dream alive.
Reporting by Youthhubafrica Uganda correspondent, Ruth Aine
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