Friday, June 30, 2017

African Science Week 2017 in Cameroon: Igniting the power of science

In our recent article: implication for promoting science and art literacies in the digital age for the future: the case of the Cameroonian context ; the issue of guidance and counselling services to be at the centre for promoting science literacy was raised. In fact, the periods of childhood and adolescence are critical to enable core skills to be obtained. By immersing children and adolescents in very rich and stimulating environment they readily develop their interest in a variety of domains. This naturally fosters curiosity and the scientific attitude all pre-requisites of the scientific mind. Igniting the power of science means that the interests of students with respect to science and technology would have been harnessed and channelled to produce competent scientists. However, one fundamental problem that affects science developement in Africa remains the type of education, and instruction students recieve (3) and the interference of Africa's educational heritage (1) on the perception   (how information is interpreted) and cognition (how information is treated)  coupled to the effect of the influence of the cultural factor (for example  there is mounting evidence that language influences perception and cognition 5, 6,). Science and technology were born in Africa (4). Science and technology in Africa were indisociable (4). If Africa is lagging something went wrong. Trying to undertand what went wrong could also prove to be among many other things be suistaianble manner to develop science in Africa. Even if this is not the aim of this article , it is important to raise  these questions. Inquiery is a fundamental scientific activity.

Africa Science Week 2017
Science in our context should no longer be limited to subjects taught in class. The need to make competence in science more concrete is an imperative to make science literacy measurable among students. ICTs provide a means of immersing learners in environments which provide them with 21 century skills. However, more practical day to day activities that can develop their critical thinking skills and problem solving skills are necessary. There is still a cultural problem faced by African students emerged in a  triple educational system (Indigenous, Islamic-Arabic and Western Christian) (1), which  we posit prevents them at the same time from taking full advantage of exogenous education and at the same time indigenous education. What  students learn with respect to sciences in class does not always match with their reality. It is therefore still the task of parents, educators and the educational system to provide more spaces where children and adolescent would be exposed to science and technology in ways which they are familiar with. The African Science Week as a  science competence incubator is of extreme relevance when  we know there is no or very little opportunity for African students to be exposed to science in ways that look simple, yet relevant to the present era and the knowlegde and information societies/economies. 

Several activities marking the African Science Week in Cameroon were organised in the Center region/Yaounde, Littoral/Douala and South West Region /Buea respectively. In Yaounde, at the Next Generation Technology Center, over a 100 adolescents participated during the event. The presence of a good number of girls at this event  needs to be highlighted. Because of the negative beliefs surrounding the inability of girls to achieve or even be interested in science many girls in schools have shown very little interest in science and science subjects. Yet, the involvemnt of women  and girls in science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) is imperative to fill the gap in the labour market with respect to science and IT jobs(2). Notwithstanding , in Cameroon since a few years now there has been some private and public initiatives to encouarge girls  and adolescents to be interested in computer science and information technologies..

 Janet Fofang, Tech entrepreneurn on right talking to young participants during the Africa Science Week 2017 in Yaounde Photo Didier De Masso

The African Science Week in Cameroon could also be thought of as  a platform to link  science teachers, school counsellors, scientist of various field to students. The teachers been the ones concerned with instruction and the school counsellors detecting interest in science literacies and developing networks or opportunities for students, scientist and teachers to meet. Like for most literacies the role of school counsellors in developing science literacy skills is becoming extremely crucial. Government needs therefore to train better equiped school counsellors to meet up with the growing demand of the knowledge society and digital economy with scientists and engineers.

Next Generation Technology Center where African Science Week 2017 took place in Yaounde  Photo Didier De Masso
1         (1)  Nsamenang, B., A., Tchombe, M., S., T. (2011). Handbook of African Educational  Theories and Practices A Generative Teacher Education Curriculum. Bamenda, ISBN : 978-9956-444-64-2
2         (2) Dasgupta, N.,Stout, G., J. (2014). Girls and Women in Science, Technology,  Engineering, and Mathematics: STEMing  the Tide and Broadening Participation in  STEM Careers  In Policy Insights from the  Behavioral and Brain Sciences Vol. 1(1) 21 –29.DOI: 10.1177/2372732214549471

3          (3) United Nations Educatinal Scientific and Cultural Organisation (n.d).Current Challenges in Basic Science  Education. UNESCO.

            (4)Bogucki, P. (2008). (Editor in Chief )ENCYCLOPEDIA of Ancient  World Society andCulture in the Volume I.ISBN 978-0-8160-6941-5
            (5) Boroditsky, L. (2001). Does Language Shape Thought?: Mandarin and English Speakers’ Conceptions of Time.Cognitive Psychology43,1–22  doi:10.1006/cogp.2001.0748, available online at on
6             (6) Dils, T., A.,  Boroditsky, L. (2010). Processing unrelated language  can change what you see. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17 (6), 882-888 doi:10.3758/PBR.17.6.882

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