International Astronomical Union’s OAD selects eight projects from Africa to receive funding – Space in Africa

The International Astronomical Unions Office of Astronomy for Development(OAD) is pleased to announce the results of its 2020 call for proposals, with21 projects selected to receive funding in 2021. Out of the 21, eight projects are from Africa.

These projects, which will address global challenges using astronomy-related innovations, include online astronomy programmes in Indonesia and India; development of astronomy video content to be used in television lessons in Pakistan; training programmes for displaced populations in refugee camps in Algeria, Spain, Italy and Uganda; motivating and improving the welfare of prisoners in Nigeria; teaching coding using astronomical topics in Portugal, Mozambique and East Timor; mentoring and inspiring girls in primary schools in rural Kenya; and astronomy projects to celebrate indigenous culture and help students identify with their ancestral roots in Chile, Brazil, Cape Verde, Mozambique, So Tom and Prncipe, Angola, and Portugal.

Although the call was announced in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the OAD received an enthusiastic response from the community, with 110 applications submitted. An independent review panel selected 21 proposals, which were later approved by the OAD Steering Committee. In total, 109 944 will be granted to the funded projects.

This was the ninth annual call for proposals run by the OAD. In light of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the OAD also ran a separate call in 2020, inviting proposals to address the immediate challenges caused by the pandemic. As a result of this additional call, a further43 projects were fundedin June 2020.

The annual call for proposals is open to anyone from anywhere in the world. The next call is expected to open in April 2021.

The eight projects from Africa funded are:

1. Astrobus, NigeriaAstroBus-Nigeria is a mobile Astronomy outreach activity carried out by organizing a march and driving a motor vehicle probably 2-3 convoy to different locations in Nigeria. The Astronomy activities include sensitization, poster/billboard activities at popular location, simple astronomy experiments and others. The project aims to stimulate astronomy education and a culture of scientific thinking in Nigeria through the use of astronomy activities. We believe this idea is an effective approach to reach out to the general public in a creative and inspiring way.

2. Astrolab Distant Training, Southern, Eastern and West African countriesTo get students involved in science studies, lab activities are a necessity, but often scarce funding limits the capacity to implement it. In that context the enquiry-based lab Astrolab was developed. It is based on the analysis of astronomical images obtained with remote telescopes to introduce students to the scientific research method by working through project development and preparation, data acquisition and treatment, analysis and conclusions.

3. Astro-prison, NigeriaThe Astro-prison project aims to use Astro-prison as an astronomical tool in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Nigerian correctional facilities. The Astro-prison project targets the eighteen (18) correctional centres in South-Eastern Nigeria. South-East Nigeria is made up of five states which include Anambra State, Enugu State, Abia State, Imo State and Ebonyi State. The Astro-prison project will adopt a cross-sectional design. The project design will utilize both qualitative and quantitative methods for analysis. The project is designed to cope with the current COVID-19 pandemic by adopting preventive World Health Organization guidelines. This project will adopt the use of English, Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba languages as major communication languages because Nigeria is multi-ethnic. The Astro-prison project targets all inmates and prison warders in the South-East region of Nigeria and the sample size per prison (n) i.e. the number of participants per prison will be determined using standard Fischers et al. (1998) formula, n = (Z^2 pq)/d^2.

4. Elimisha Msichana. Elimisha Jamii na Astronomia (EMJA), (Swahili for educate a girl, educate the entire community with astronomy) KenyaIn Kenya, although 70.4% of girls aged 15-19 years manage to achieve some sort of primary education only 4.5% complete secondary education (World Bank, 2012). Only 3.5% of women (aged 15+) have completed tertiary education (World Bank, 2015). This is due to many socio-economic challenges such as teenage pregnancies, early marriages, FGM, poverty and lack of mentorship.

EMEJA will support schoolgirls and their families in rural areas of Kenya through astronomy outreach, mentorship & inspirational programmes. EMEJA aims to; 1) engage local communities in positively tackling the above socio-economic challenges; 2) increase number of girls completing secondary education in rural areas; 3) increase numbers of girls picking Physics & STEM; 4) develop resources for often underfunded local rural day secondary schools. Astronomy is the key tool & central theme around which activities will be built.

5. Knowledge access and sharing through Cultural Astronomy in Ugandas Refugee settlements and host communities, UgandaThis project is based on introducing Astronomy to refugee settlements through student activities, teacher training workshops, public engagements, webinars on Cultural Astronomy all of which will eventually be incorporated in a mobile Astronomy Lab for replication in other regions of Uganda. Project deliverables include; introduction of Astronomy in the general sciences education, a catalogue of videos, poems & other collected information for publication & display in an Astronomy museum. This project will be implemented in the 11 refugee settlements of Uganda, Africas leading refugee host.

6. Open Astronomy Clubs for Quality Education, Gender Equality and Distribution of Telescopes, CameroonOur project idea is to open Astronomy Clubs (one in a university, one in a secondary school and one in a primary school) for quality education and gender equality, and to distribute thirty telescopes in schools across the republic ( ten in ten state Universities, ten in ten secondary schools, seven in seven secondary schools and three in three primary, nursery and pre-nursery Schools) for partnership and good Ties between us, the Astronomy Club Of Cameroon and the IAU NOC Committee with the different institutions and ministry of higher education and that of the primary education.

Our only drawback was the budget. Since Astronomy Club Of Cameroon is the only existing Astronomy Club in Cameroon, we think these initiatives will help reduce our load and easily bring Astronomy knowledge to the community.

7. OruMbya Astronomy as fuel of life: the resilience of stars in Yoruba, Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous Cosmogony, Brazil, Cape Verde, Mozambique, So Tom and Principe, Angola and PortugalOruMbya (Orum, sky in Yorub, and Mbya, a Brazilian Guarani ethnicity) is a pilot project to celebrate Astronomy as the fuel of life, in which the stories of the stars are preserved in the resilience of people from three different continents and shared over months, through scientific-cultural activities focused on the dissemination of knowledge, promotion of social inclusion and sustainable development in the context of PLOAD.

We plan to organise five public events (once a month) at the Observatory of Valongo. Every event will comprise an organic combination of three experiences: dedicated to astronomy, African and indigenous knowledge, and art or music, which will be recorded and live broadcast. There will be webinars (roundtable discussions) where people from the different countries will share their experiences of Cultural Astronomy.

8. Pan-African School for Emerging Astronomers 2021, AfricaThe Pan-African School for Emerging Astronomers (PASEA) formally known as West African International Summer School for Young Astronomers (WAISSYA) has remained one of the flagship projects of the West African Regional Office of Astronomy for Development (WAROAD), since the first edition was initiated in the year 2013.

The school is primarily designed as an innovative short-course in astronomy for university students, an outreach program for high school students cum teachers at local universities. PASEA gives students the opportunity to develop their interest in astronomy, inspire their scientific curiosity cum enhance their practice of scientific thinking; while instructors have the opportunity of exchanging educational ideas between Africa and the rest of the world.

The other projects selected are:

The OAD has also compiled a list of recommended proposals that were approved by the reviewers but could not be funded. You can browse through them here.

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International Astronomical Union's OAD selects eight projects from Africa to receive funding - Space in Africa

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