The one-week-long West African Summer School for Young Astronomers (WAISSYA)2019, organised to train West African universities’ undergraduate and graduate students in the area of astronomy and space technology applications, by the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) through the Centre for Basic Space Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka,(UNN), ended Friday last week in Abuja.
The 4th edition in the series, the event tagged: “Empowering Young Africans in Becoming Scientific Leaders”, took place at Senator Boroffice Ajayi Conference Hall, Obasanjo Space Centre, Abuja, where over 60 undergraduate and postgraduate students were trained in various field of Astronomy and Space Technology by 13 foreign instructors.
The Summer School was co-sponsored by NASRDA’s Centre for Basic Space Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Unversity of Toronto; Dunlap Institutes for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Development for Astronomy for Africa (DARA), International Astronomical Union; Las Cumbre Observator, Open Astronomy Schools, The Royal Society, AAPT Physics Education and International Centre for Theoretical Physics.
Different sessions coordinated by the 13 instructors present for the event include an interactive lesson on cosmology by Dr Jielai Zhang, She also co-led the Instructor Workshop Week, the group teaching project, and facilitated an inquiry activity. Dr Bernard Duah Asabere co-taught a lesson on galaxies, and facilitated an inquiry activity; Dr Daniel Okoh co-taught an interactive lesson on stars, and facilitated the inquiry activity; Dr Bop Cheikh co-taught a lesson on stars, co-led the group teaching project, and facilitated the inquiry activity, while Dr Finbarr Odoh taught the lesson on Cultural Astronomy, co-taught a lesson on cosmology, co-led the group teaching project, and facilitated every inquiry activity.
Others were Dr Duy Nguyen, who facilitated an inquiry activity and Dr James Chibueze, who taught an interactive lesson on radio astronomy. He also co-led the post-graduate stream with Dr Patrice Okouma. Margaret Ikape co-taught an interactive lesson on cosmology, led the Women in Science lunch, and facilitated an inquiry activity. Sarah Abotsi-Masters and Esaenwi Sudum co-taught a class on exoplanets, science communication, and facilitated an inquiry activity. Kevin Govender, Director of the Office of Astronomy for Development in Cape Town, led debates on Vision for the Future of astronomy in Africa.
Declaring the Summer School open, NASRDA’s Acting Director-General, Mr Jonathan Angulu, represented by Dr Olufemi Agboola, Director Space Applications, said the Agency through the office of the Astronomical Union-Office of West African Astronomy for
Development (WAROAD), had succeeded in training brilliant students for the development of the country. He added that the Agency has achieved a milestone by making an impact and building a strong synergy with the International community.
Dr Agboola stated that several of research carried out by their activity centres have been recommended to various government agencies across the country, to help tackle fraud and other social vices in organisations. He encouraged the students to utilised the knowledge gathered during Summer School training judiciously and take it a part of the academic progress. Furthermore, he promised the Agency will not relent in its effort to advance space technology for the betterment of the people and to the unity of the country.
In his responses, the Director, Centre for Basic Space Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Dr Bonaventure Okere thanked the management for the success of the WAISSYA 2019. Dr Okere revealed that the objective of the Summer School for youths is to set a professional standard in actualising the visions in technology innovation. He said the event also aims to set Nigerian youngsters as a leading voice in astronomy research and development on the African continent. He implored students to share the knowledge and experience they have gathered from the event with others.
On the challenges facing astronomy research and development in the country, Dr Okere noted that the centre needs funds to position Nigeria in the world’s astronomy map.
In his remark, the Director, Centre for Atmospheric Research Anyigba, Kogi State University, Prof. Babatunde Rabiu, said “NASRDA management has done well by establishing the Centre for Basic Space Science, which has given birth to Centre for Atmospheric Research, Anyiba, both of which are working tirelessly towards the realisation of the Agency’s visions.”
In his speech, Dr Aliyu Shaba of NASRDA observed that having better funding and administrative expertise would create a better arena to employ several engineers and other scientists.
Before the commencement of teaching and learning at the 2019 Summer School, the instructors paid a courtesy visit to the University of Abuja, where Prof Ekundayo Oyegoke Ajala received the team on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor of University, Prof Abdulrasheed Na’Allah. He extolled the team and NASRDA for the positive impacts added to the educational development of the institution.
The Vice-Chancellor, who addressed the team at 100 Level Physics Theatre of the University, while highlighting the positive impacts of space research in the advancement of the nation’s technology that gives maximum priority to it, said it would always win the war against insurgency, environmental hazard, Agricultural revolution among others. He also noted that space research and innovation, as a fundamental of technology, cannot be underestimated in any part of the world.
Prof Ekundayo impressed with the turnout at the event, said he believes that the Nigerian university system has realised that only research that would address the problems plaguing the country.
In his welcome address, the acting head of the department, Dr George Gala Nyam, said a lot of credible experimental research has been built and developed in the department. He added that more is expected to aid excellent research and knowledge transfer among the staff and students.
Media Relations Unit,
NASRDA-Centre for Basic Space Science,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Ogechi Onuoha is a Cambridge Certified ESOL editor with a background in reporting, international relations, creative writing and adept in industry research and analysis. She is passionate about curating and evaluating the benefits/relevance of space to grassroots development and women’s participation in the space sector.