Archive for October, 2009

Here comes the science salesman

October 9, 2009

Uganda Science Week; Here Comes the Science Salesman

By David Malingha Doya

Business Writer

With about 5,000 people engaged in its activities, this year’s National Science Week in Uganda was held in September under the theme “Youth in Science for Sustainable Development.” Scientists use the annual science week as an opportunity to show off their achievements and to showcase their contributions to the country’s welfare.

The event was hosted by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, a semi-autonomous government agency established to advise, develop and implement policies and strategies for integrating science, technology and research in Uganda.

 

Events and Exhibitions

This year’s science week featured a series of colorful events that took place across the country with most of the activities being held in the eastern part of the country. Events included a science walk in Tororo district (about 230 km from Kampala City), a national students’ science innovation competition at Busitema University, and a science fair in a primary school in Busia district (less than 5 km from the Uganda-Kenya border in eastern Uganda).

In one secondary school exhibition; a group of girls who had concocted a cold remedy were later driven to Kampala City to be recognized at the closing ceremony. There were also school visits by the mobile team in most of the other districts in this part of the country.

Meanwhile in Kampala, two events were taking place simultaneously: a secondary students’ science seminar and debate at the Uganda Museum; and an annual science conference at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences.

The last two days of the event featured an exhibition, followed by a colorful closing ceremony at the prestigious Speke Resort on the shores of Lake Victoria at Munyoyo near Kampala. The event was also attended by scientists from South Africa with whom the Ugandan government signed a collaborative agreement to develop science and technology.

Extraction of the anti-malarial solution from plants Bottled ready solution Of all the exhibitions taking place, one of the most visited was the exhibition-tent set up by a team of scientists who showed off an anti-malaria solution.

The scientists demonstrated how they made the solution from Artemisia, avocado and lemongrass. The participants could even purchase some of the products made by the group of scientists.

Another exhibit that caught the attention of attendees, especially the children, was one showcasing a sizeable Nile perch fish. In one of the Millennium Science Initiative projects funded by the World Bank to promote science, a group of scientists is researching the best methods to breed Nile perch to help sustain the best selling fish species. This includes the development of feeds that will substitute for other fish species that the predator Nile perch feeds on.

At Busitema University, students exhibited a portable water pump that could dramatically improve access to safe drinking water in the countryside. Some secondary schools showed off bracelets and bangles the students had made from waste paper, while most of the primary school children shared their dreams of making things they only see in movies such as James Bond’s multi-function car.

I noticed that a diesel car, that was made by students at Makerere University, one of the country’s biggest technological achievements, was missing. I was told that it wasn’t on display as it could easily overshadow other equally important exhibits.

 

And the Winner Is …

This is the third year that the National Science Week has been held in Uganda, and fundings of up to US$30 million were competitively given to Ugandan scientists through the Millennium Science Initiative (MSI) funded by the World Bank.

This year, there were over 100 proposals by scientists competing for less than a dozen grants. Senior and junior researchers from public universities were among the winners to receive funding for research in various subjects such as increasing animal production and rural electrification.

Funds were also awarded for the best proposals concerning improvement of university science education curricula, and for the best joint proposals between the private sector and the Academy for Science Development and Promotion.

Besides this, the best exhibitors were recognized. These included the team that made the anti-malarial remedy made from fruits and grasses, the girls who made the cold remedy and the boys who made bracelets and bangles from waste paper. This year, science week coincided with the Ugandan government’s drawing of its national development plan.

Scientists want science and technology to take a central part in the plan via the creation of a science ministry and adequate governmental funding of their activities. The national science week is the main selling point for this strategy, which is why highly ranked government officials including ministers, diplomats, and representatives of the development partners were invited to actively participate in the activities.

Next year’s science week will be held in northern Uganda, a part of the country emerging from two-decades of bloody conflict, but which is known to be home to some of the country’s leading scientists.

David Malingha Doya is a journalist based in Uganda, and Chairman of Nile Media Network Uganda Chapter. He writes in international media on a number of issues from around the world including; science and technology. You can contact him on healthandscienceATiolteamDOTcom

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