In May 2020, the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development issued an Extraordinary Call for Proposals that could use astronomy in any form to help mitigate some of the impacts caused by COVID-19. Together with the African Astronomical Society and African Planetarium Association, more than 800,000 ZAR (about 40,000 Euros) in grants have been awarded to 43 projects around the world that use various aspects of astronomy and the Astro community to help communities suffering the negative impacts of COVID-19.
The call for proposals was done in partnership with the African Astronomical Society and African Planetarium Association. Here is a list of the 20 projects focusing on Africa:
|Project Title||Target countries||Project Summary|
|Astro-Art Contest for Schools Kids||Nigeria||This project aims to engage elementary and high school children through an Astro-Art competition. The competition will encourage school children to paint their space imaginations and get a chance to win prizes.|
|Collecting and visualising healthcare facility data for South Africa (SA) in response to COVID-19||The project will collate data and create visualisation resources related to healthcare facilities in SA but re-use of the tools and data will be encouraged by publishing it under open licenses.||The project aims to collect and effectively communicate data related to the South African healthcare system and its response to COVID-19. Most of the publicly available information around the pandemic pertains to the number of positive cases recorded, (the) number of tests conducted, recoveries and number of COVID-19-related deaths. Less data is available describing healthcare systems capacities, locations and readiness to cater to the infected people. Having easy access to healthcare facility data is hugely important to identify gaps, risks, and excess resources that can be deployed elsewhere. It also helps the general public to understand the status of the healthcare system. The visualisation dashboard will be freely accessible and source code for the data visualisation platform will also be released under an open-source license.|
|COVID Citizen Science||Nigeria||The project will train students to conduct citizen science as part of a SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) program.|
|COVID-19 Support for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s)||Nigeria||The project plan is to provide hygiene support at a camp for Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria. The camp has over 2500 inhabitants mostly living in overcrowded rooms and shared facilities, including 500 children. The project team, which previously visited the camp for an OAD project in 2019, will provide handwashing stations as well as create posters in Hausa and English Language about the dangers of COVID-19, precautionary measures and lifestyles changes. Also, they plan to provide hand sanitizers, disinfectants, face masks, other general cleaning supplies and food supplies.|
|Development of online astronomy lessons for students in Ghana||Ghana||The project will develop online lessons in astronomy and share with students through social media. The lessons would be deployed weekly and questions and feedback from users address. Lessons will include, a virtual tour of the 32-metre radio telescope at Kutunse, in Accra, hands-on- activities, introductory and intermediate topics in astronomy and techniques like teaching students python programming and applicable software.|
|Development on an online platform for Assessment of COVID-19 spread for planning and implementation of timely intervention||Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania||The project aims to develop an online platform for mapping COVID-19 hots spots in order to provide near real-time information that will help plan interventions such as the location of quarantine facilities, humanitarian assistance, distribution of resources such as health workers, ambulances, ventilators, personal protection equipment (PPEs). The information so obtained may be used to decide which localities to put under partial or total lockdown; put under curfew etc so as to contain the spread of the disease. An algorithm will be developed using similar techniques as in astronomy to image the spread of the disease and eventually provide an easy to use online platform for informed decision making. The online interface will be shared with government agencies before being made public.|
|Distance Learning for Home-Bound Students Amid COVID-19||Tanzania||The Distance Learning for Home-Bound Students projects directly addresses the education barriers in developing countries such as Tanzania where on-line access and computers are very limited. The project enables teachers to continue engaging their students using simple, online facilities appropriate for the bandwidth-limited internet and families with no computer. For students without any internet access, printed packages will be prepared for pickup, following safe COVID practices.
|DISTRIBUTION OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPES) TO HOUSEHOLDS AROUND THE GHANA RADIO ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORY||Ghana||The project intends to reach the community living around the Ghana Radio Astronomy Observatory and distribute face masks, hand sanitizers and other PPEs as well as discuss astronomy as appropriate.|
|e-Amanar: Under the same sky connection||Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria.||e-Amanar will provide follow-up capacity building for teachers involved in the 2019 Amanar project at the Sahrawi Refugee camps by 1) organizing a pilot online training program and 2) providing science educational materials. As a response to challenges imposed by COVID, the project will strengthen support to teachers by remote skill development and self-empowerment activities. Scarcity of computers and lack of reliable internet connectivity is a reality at the camps, so the program will be carried out via Whatsapp, which is efficient to low internet connection and teachers can use it easier through their mobile phones. The program content will be co-created with the teachers to ensure that the content is relevant.|
|OAD Injection Moulding Machine – Recycling waste plastic||South Africa||Waste plastic is a golden opportunity. The project plans to up-cycle plastic to reduce the impact on the environment as well as add to livelihood opportunities. The injection moulding machine is suitable for a small scale production facility for manufacturing, for example, breathing masks.|
|Online collaboration and studentship Assistance Amidst Covid-19||Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, Madagascar, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Rwanda, USA, Canada, Mexico, Uganda, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Gabon.||Online Collaboration and Studentship Assistance Amidst Covid-19 is a focused project to assist Southern African and West African Regional Offices to access online resources and learning opportunities that have already been developed by the North American Regional Office. Students will participate in observing and research using a remotely operated telescope, led by educators, professional astronomers. They will learn about the night sky, how to plan a remote observing session, how to operate the telescope via Slack, as well as image calibration and reduction. Internet access will be purchased for students.|
|Online Learning Web Application for University and High School Students||Nigeria and West African Countries.||The project will build a user friendly and responsive website for university students to learn physics and astronomy. Both video lectures and text (where necessary) will be published on the online learning platform. The platform would also support learning for high schools on topics of maths, physics, chemistry, and biology.|
|Protect Our Stars (POS)||Burkina Faso||The project will support the students and supervisors at the Joseph Ki-Zerbo University to resume their work at the university safely, especially when remote activities are impossible. This will involve making reusable local masks, acquisition of recyclable personal protection equipment and handwash for laboratory activities. Awareness sessions on safety measures will also be conducted.|
|Providing astronomy inspiration & Hygienic Supplies to underserved families at high risk of infection from Covid-19||South Africa||Informal and partially informal settlements in South Africa are incredibly vulnerable to the spread of the Covid-19 virus. One of the communities in Cape Town is Khayelitsha where children are also facing a complete stall in their education due to school closures, as they are unable to access online educational resources from home. This project will provide the families of 110 students with hygienic supplies, while also including educational, astronomy-based material for the children and their families to enjoy while at home in order to keep the students inspired and engaged in learning during the lockdown.|
|Reach for the Stars||South Africa||The town of Sutherland in South Africa, which hosts the South African Astronomical Observatory, has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The core of the proposal would be to provide 200 families in the community with food parcels. The Observatory has been very active in these communities with schools, therefor for implementation we would partner with the schools and the saps to ensure the food reaches the most vulnerable households in the communities, especially where learners are present as well.|
|Role of astronomy and space science in fighting COVID-19 and other viruses.||Ethiopia directly, and the rest of Africa and the world indirectly||This project aims to develop educational material and give more information and visibility about COVID-19 and other viruses and on the important role of science in general, and astronomy and space science (A&SS) in fighting them. It will include the development of a manual, reflecting brief questions and clear answers on what we learned about COVID-19 and other viruses, what we still have to learn, and how important was and will be the role of A&SS in knowledge creation and prevention and protection of society from disasters. The information will be adapted to Ethiopian conditions and/or societies living in challenging conditions. The manual will be developed in English and translated to Ethiopian official languages.|
|SAAO Aquaponics Farm||Southern Africa||Staff members at the South African Astronomical Observatory SAAO will be setting up an aquaponics farm for the benefit of SAAO personnel and staff. The aquaponics facility will also be used to showcase aquaponics to visiting schools.|
|Solar Powered Foot-activated Hand Washing Water Dispensers||KENYA||Two astronomy students from Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST) have developed a foot-activated hand washing dispenser with a motorized valve that is solar-powered. The device will improve safety during the COVID-19 crisis and is likely to prompt pupils to wash their hands more often as they marvel at the operation of the device. In addition, this will provoke their curiosity regarding the sun as the source of energy and the working principle of the device. The project team plans to fabricate and distribute the handwashing kits to 4 public schools around Meru University of Science and Technology with an average capacity of 500 pupils each.|
|Teacher Training on Teaching Science (Physics) and Mathematics using Astronomy and Astrophysics||Uganda||The project will continue the training of teachers initiated by the Network for Astronomy School Education (NASE) training in 2019. The training be conducted online and the teachers will be supported with materials and mobile data|
|Time and Data for Tutors||South Africa||Universities across the world, including in South Africa, are moving to online means for teaching and learning. While the University of the Western Cape has launched a vast campaign to raise funds for laptops and data packages for students, teaching assistants, or tutors, are not priority recipients of the fundraising efforts, nor can they purchase data for teaching. Moreover, they are often working much more than 5 or 10 hours per week that they are currently paid for, helping the undergraduates understand the material. In these difficult conditions, the staff of the Department of Physics and Astronomy have come together to volunteer their own research or publication funding to be able to support the tutors, but this falls short of what is needed. The project grant will be used to purchase data packages and fund extra time for teaching assistants in the Physics and Astronomy Department.|
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