Press Releases

    UNIS/OS/249
    17 July 2002

    Under African Skies 2002, A Joint Project by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (Oosa) and Cosmos Education Builds Scientific Literacy from the Ground Up

    Teaching Students Across Southern Africa About Science and Technology

    VIENNA, 17 July (UN Information Service) -- Packed into a large overland truck filled with books, posters, magazines and science toys, the Cosmos Education 2002 Under African Skies team departed Nairobi on 22 June and began the long journey south to Johannesburg. Over the course of the five-week education expedition, the international team of scientists, teachers, and graduate students are visiting over 50 rural and urban schools in five sub-Saharan countries of Africa.

    The Under African Skies project, run by Cosmos Education -- a US based NGO dedicated to science and technology education in developing countries -- motivates and empowers young students in Africa with regard to their ability to define the role of science and technology in the future of sustainable development. "Our goal is to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, doctors, and leaders here in Africa," said Benjamin Moalusi, a Masters student in astrophysics from the University of the NorthWest in South Africa. "The future is in our hands and we need to empower the youth and let them know they can make a difference to the world around them."

    This mission is accomplished by visiting rural and urban schools in East and Southern Africa and teaching a curriculum ranging in topics from health and the environment to physics and electronics. The programme is adjusted to suit the individual interests and education levels of each school and focuses on hands-on learning and fun experiments using familiar objects and materials. In the first weeks Cosmos Education has worked in 12 schools across Western and Southern Kenya, the Transmara and Northern Tanzania as well as the Mkombozi Centre for Street Children in Moshi, Tanzania.

    While in the Transmara region of Kenya, the team stopped in Enoosaen -- the small Maasai village responsible for donating 14 cows to the World Trade Center relief fund. Along with visiting the Enoosaen Secondary School and working with many students and teachers, the team delivered New York City T-shirts and pen-pal letters from students in Brooklyn, New York. "I am excited to have connected students here in Enoosaen with children from my home in New York. Building friendships between different cultures is the key to a peaceful future and to a stronger global education, " said Cosmos Education Managing Director Jessica Darrow.

    The programme was developed by the Cosmos Education team, which consists of teachers and graduate level students with a wide variety of backgrounds and specializations -- ranging from quantum physics and aeronautical engineering to biological sciences and environmental health. The team represents the international community with members from Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia, South Africa, Swaziland, England, Hong Kong and the United States. "This project has taught me so much about education in Africa and what needs to change in order for us, as Africans, to move forward in the coming years." said Vivian Nchogu of the Child Rights Defenders Movement in Nairobi. "In addition, being a part of this group has taught me a lot about working together on an international team." The Cosmos Education team consists of more than twenty people from 10 different countries. Over two-thirds of the team is from Africa and women comprise close to half of the total team.

    Prior to the five-week education expedition, the Under African Skies project held a conference aimed at improving science and technology education in developing countries. This year the theme was "Science and Sustainability -- Applying Appropriate Solutions for a Global Society". The five-day event, hosted at the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, brought together more than 400 secondary school and university students. Highlights included a talk on remote sensing and space applications by Charles Davies from the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, and a talk by UNEP's Dr. Marion Cheatle on the recently released Global Environment Outlook 3 Report (GEO-3). The young school students had the privilege of being among the first to hear the new information from GEO-3.

    "This audience of bright young African students is the perfect group to hear about the past, present, and possible future states of our environment," reflects Kevin Hand, president of Cosmos Education and graduate student at Stanford University. "They will be the ones dealing with the consequences of actions taken today and they will be in the position to decide which future we choose for humanity and our planet as a whole."

    Partners in this initiative include the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), UNEP, NASA, The Musk Foundation, The Tillenius Charitable Fund, Astrium, and Lockheed-Martin.

    For more information on the Under African Skies project please visit www.cosmoseducation.org

    For more information on the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs please visit
    www.oosa.unvienna.org

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