How Far Are We Scientifically?

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Africa’s curse is its knowledge deficit and the fact that its society does not value scientific knowledge very much, said Prime Minister, Nahas Angula yesterday. He was officially opening the Science, Technology and Engineering Week under the theme, Cultivating a Scientific Culture for Socio-economic Transformation, a joint venture by the University of Namibia (Unam) and the Polytechnic of Namibia. Learners from various secondary schools and teachers are attending the event. “I appreciate the fact that Unam and the Polytechnic have found common cause with the Ministry of Education to jointly organize this important educational event. This synergy should be cultivated in order to foster a collaborative spirit in favour of the advancement of research and development, application of knowledge, the education of scientists and technologists and the cultivation of a scientific culture in our nation,” said Angula. He said the science and engineering week offers Namibia the opportunity to evaluate the state of its scientific endeavors. “Cultivation of a scientific culture should start with the political commitment of African leaders. If political independence is going to be meaningful, Africa must launch a cultural revolution, one that will aim at cultivating and embedding in African culture a scientific orientation. This political commitment should be followed by institutional readiness,” Angula warned. According to him, Africa must invest in the training of science and mathematics teachers. “Africa must invest in equipping every secondary school with science laboratories. It must create incentives and reward systems for science and mathematics teachers, researchers and inventors. Young people should also be encouraged to link their future wellbeing to the application of science and technology. Young people should be motivated to commit time and intellectual energy to mastering science, mathematics, ICT and engineering,” he advised the youth of the country. He also stressed that African economic policies should promote manufacturing, value addition and beneficiation. “Africa should put a stop to the export of its raw materials. Instead it should commit itself to the export of quality finished products. In so doing, the continent will create opportunities for scientists and technologists to apply their knowledge and know-how to Africa’s natural resources,” Angula, a former teacher, said. He appealed to all stakeholders in education to prioritize and popularize science, mathematics, technology, ICTs and scientific methods. “It is a pity that mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology subjects, the epicenter of science, are at times shunned and depicted as dull, abstract, intimidating and virtually impossible for the average person. However, science and technology are inescapable parts of our lives,” said another speaker at the official opening at the main hall at Unam, Dr Abraham Iyambo, who is the country’s minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources. According to Iyambo, people no longer have to be afraid of science, but should be keen to use it. “Africans have practised science and technology for centuries. The only tragedy is that African knowledge and unique discoveries are not documented, acknowledged or patented. However, Africans have innate scientific knowledge. Our ancestors were thinkers,” Iyambo said proudly.