By Mustapha Modu Bama
The desire in supporting African students and enhancing public understanding of science took TReND in Africa (www.TReNDinAfrica.org), with support from The University of Sussex, Cambridge University, Gombe State University and the North East Forum on the 28th of February to Gombe state in north east Nigeria to organise a science festival for students, members of the public and policy-makers in the region. The science festival was aimed at inspiring future generation of African Scientist, increasing public understanding of science and inspiring better science policies. A number of students were drawn from ten (10) schools by the organisers to the occasion who presented their science inventions, from light detectors/alarm to medicinal plant blend and oil and were assessed by a panel of judges, where four schools were awarded with prizes. On the other hand, the organisers reciprocated to the students with the exhibition of science stuffs on different stalls which ranges from DNA and Protein Models, Macroscopic Cell Model, Brain Games and Models of Brain Diseases. Among the audience who graced the occasion were scientists, policy-makers, students, teachers and members of the public. A panel discussion was also held on Brain Research in Nigeria : from normal physiology to Cancer, in which top Nigerian Medical Practitioners and Scientists discuss the subject and their research in the area. Also in attendance was the representative of the VC, Gombe State University Prof. I. M Umar, the Gombe State Commissioner of Education, the Provost College of Medical Sciences Prof. G. D Kalayi, TReND Outreach Coordinator Mahmoud Bukar Maina, Abdulaziz Mala (North East Forum), Dr. Adamu Bojude (FTH Gombe), Prof. Danjuma Nuhu Mohammed (ABU Zaria), Dr. Nura Alkali (ATBU Bauchi) Dr. Ali Gombe and Muktar Yarima. The event ended with a quiz competition between the ten (10) schools in attendance, where Federal Government Girls College Bajoga emerged first position. Government Science Secondary School Gombe emerged as the second position, while JIBWIS Islamic Secondary School Gombe went with the third position. Yahya Ahmed Secondary School Gombe and All Saint Gombe had a tie on the fourth position.
Speaking with the TReND Outreach Coordinator and member of the Northeast forum – Mahmoud Bukar Maina, he said “Nigeria is far behind in science teaching and research, which are important drivers of societal development. In the West, school children at a very young age begin to ask scientific questions that many PhD holders in Nigeria do not ask. This is why we need to change people’s attitude towards science and inspire future generation of African Scientists, as well as, inspire better science policies. For instance many schools lack basic tools ( e.g Microscope) for teaching science, likewise, many science teachers lack core competencies for improvising to organise science practical in their classroom, these leaves students with no skills to ask deep questions or pursue meaningful career paths in science, such as in the areas of drug discovery”. Mahmoud also said that they are developing these science outreach activities to inspire collaboration between scientists and medical practitioners in the search for disease causation and cure. At the end, TReND donated Carl Zeiss teaching microscopes to the schools that won the quiz competition and tasked them to use it for science teaching in their classroom. Earlier, Mahmoud and his team had organised similar outreach events in Maiduguri, Borno state, where 9 schools benefitted from microscope donations; Yobe, where 4 schools also benefitted from microscope donations and in Lagos, where 2 schools also received training in hands-on science experiments and were awarded microscopes. AbdulAziz Mala of the Northeast forum confessed that he was very impressed by the science festival and call for more such activities in Nigeria.
The festival was also supported by the Welcome Trust, the Biochemical Society UK and Physiological Society UK.