Monday, June 22, 2009

IHY/SCINDA 2009 Livingstone Zambia

The second IHY/SCINDA workshop was held in Livingstone Zambia on June 7th to 12th. There were many space scientists, undergraduate and graduate students in the workshop, most of whom were Africans. During the IHY opening, the guest of honour was the Minister for Science and Technology Hon. Gabriel Namulambe, other guests included the Vice Chancellor University of Zambia Prof. Stephen simukanga and the dean of University of Zambia, sponsors and other representative organizations.

I was requested to give an oral presentation and this was an opportunity for me to recruit more African countries to the Hands-on Universe and Universe Awareness programs. Other than my presentation I decided to do a little demonstration on one of the astronomy software we use in the classrooms with students.  Of course so many students and professors showed interest in developing the same activities in their countries. I managed to give some of the students the software, which they immediately installed on their laptops. I also had an opportunity to meet Prospery Simpemba, the NPoC for SGAC Zambia

I also set some time aside for training some of the interested students on the readily available software. This team building allowed us to share our thoughts and ideas as African educators interested in promoting Astronomy in schools. We also shared our experiences and decided to create a network where we can always communicate and share different resources and also network our students across Africa.


I was invited by Mr. Mokhtar Mohsen, a physics teachers at Hillcrest Technical high school to give a talk to his students. This was an opportunity for me to visit the school with the trained students and so I decided to visit the school with some of the undergraduate physics students from University of Zambia. Hillcrest Technical High school is a boarding mixed school less than 1 km from the conference venue (Fairmount Hotel Livingstone).  The teacher was eager to have us at the school and he even came to pick us in his saloon car. Since we were a large group some of us decided to take the longer route and walk to the school.  We were a team of 10 students and young professionals, comprising 8 Zambian undergraduate students, 1 Congolese student and myself.

We found the students patiently waiting at the hall. After the introduction, we introduced the basic science concepts and then presented the stellarium software to the students. Emphasis on the need to protect our plant was one of the key topics and there were many ideas that the students came up with on how we could change our home for a better place.  The highlight of the lesson was after a demonstration of stellarium when the students had lots of questions about the blackhole and how stars are formed and how they die. Melody and Nawa undergraduate students at University of Zambia attempted to answer some of the questions. I installed all the software on the teacher’s machine, we hope that the students will have access to the software and we will be able to do more activities with the students. The school has Internet connection so I hope we will be able to keep in touch and share more resources.

After the session, some of the students followed us to ask questions about careers in space science. We each spent some time with small groups of students encouraging them to form an astronomy club and keep in touch with us. The Zambian team were excited that the students looked up to them as role models. One of them remarked that he was not ready to leave the school as he felt he still wanted to discuss more with the students, unfortunately we had to live as it was time for their lunch and they had to return to their afternoon session.

It was not always work but there was a good time for relaxation and team building by visiting some of the great spots in Zambia. Victoria falls (on of the seven wonders) visit at the night and during the day was an inexpressible experience.  We also went for the cruise in the Zambezi river with lots of local alcohol. I have never seen a group of excited people. Some of the evenings were spent in the nightclub dancing to our best African and western tunes. Lastly the young and elderly spent a good time