According to the official press release of the Office of Astronomy for Development, “twenty projects will receive funding from the IAU in 2019 to address challenges using astronomy-related interventions. Projects funded include a school program in India that will use astronomy to dispel potentially harmful superstition; education programs using astronomy to inspire and educate refugee populations in Algeria and Nigeria; development of mobile tactile dome and tactile ‘umbrella-planetarium’ for visually impaired audiences; astronomy teacher trainings in Liberia and Mongolia to improve education outcomes; a mentorship program for women in physics/astronomy in developing countries etc.”
The following projects will receive funding in 2019 to address various challenges in Africa using astronomy:
1, 2019 Girls Astronomy Camp, Nigeria
The project aims to host astronomy camps for girls in six different locations of North and North West Nigeria, as these regions have the country’s worst performance in girl-child education. Figures from the Federal office of Statistics in Nigeria show that about 58% of northern women are illiterate. It is believed that gender inequality in northern Nigeria is fostered by religious and communal customs, which has grave consequences for both the individual and society, making a girl-child a dysfunctional member of society.
2, Amanar: Under the Same Sky
“Amanar” is a project organised by GalileoMobile, in collaboration with the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the Canary Association of Friendship with the Sahrawi People (ACAPS). Its objective is to inspire children and teachers from the Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria, and the Canary Islands, Spain, using Astronomy. The aim is to promote quality science education and support the youth and teachers from the refugee camps, enhancing both their resilience and engagement in the community through skill development and self-empowerment activities.
3, Astrolab: the Consolidation Phase
In previous years Starlight in the university lab (Astrolab) was developed in Rwanda, Nigeria, and Zambia. Astrolab is an inquiry-based lab for undergraduate students. The team organised a workshop in 2018 to give future tutors a thorough training to enable them to direct and monitor students performing their projects. From the success of the workshop and at the request of the participants they proposed to establish a managerial African team to enlarge and strengthen the project and to take over the operational aspects of Astrolab.
4, Astronomy to Develop Pre-Algebra Skills, Uganda
The project is designed to conclusively improve students’ understanding and skills in pre-algebra using astronomy as a medium, compared to learnings in traditional classrooms. According to the project visionaries, pre-algebra skills – ratios, proportions, linear equations – are the foundations of all higher maths and sciences, yet are not well taught in developing countries.
5, Molo Mhlaba, South Africa
Molo Mhlaba (MM) offers a revolutionary new approach to schooling in South Africa. With local, low-fee, independent schools in underserved communities, MM provides South Africa’s most vulnerable group – black girls – with access to quality STEM education and career orientation, going beyond standard educational targets to strive for excellence and innovation. MM inspires and equips girls to pursue careers in STEM by crucially focusing on early development and primary education.
6, Under the Same Sky: Teaching the Teachers, Liberia
The project is planned to deliver a 2-week workshop for up to 40 science teachers in Monrovia, Liberia. The educational system, as one of the key drivers for socio-economic development, is in a devastating condition after two civil wars and the Ebola crisis. The project team will support the teachers with basic astronomy knowledge and classroom experiments to use astronomy as a gateway to scientific literacy.
7, IDP Children Astronomer’s Outreach, Nigeria
This project aims to use Astronomy as a tool to counsel, heal and educate children who have been traumatised by conflicts related to farmers-herdsmen clashes in Kaduna State, Nigeria. According to UNICEF and Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics, about 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria, and over 60% of these children are in northern Nigeria, where Kaduna State is located. The project team plans to have an astronomy outreach program to cater for 500 IDP (Internally displaced persons) children and to provide solar-powered astronomer’s learning hubs.
8, Industry skills from astronomy for emerging economies, South Africa
The project proposes to undertake a study and prepare a report on employability skills and employment opportunities for astronomy-related disciplines in South Africa. The report will cover interviews of employers in the industry about their experience in hiring science graduates, university lecturers about their programmes and astronomy graduates about their early career experiences.
Read the comprehensive list and more details about each selected project on OAD’s website
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Analyst at Space in Africa. His experience spans industry research and market analysis with a focus on African-grown NewSpace companies, commercial space industry, national space programmes and real-life application of space science for sustainable development in Africa.