Commissioner Ikounga addresses young African scientists at the “Next Einstein Forum” in Dakar
The Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and technology, His Excellency Dr. Martial De-Paul Ikounga addressed an eminent gathering of distinguished young African scientists and outstanding thinkers and stakeholders from around the world at the Next Einstein Forum in Dakar Senegal, held from 8th to 10th March 2016. The Commissioner was speaking at the event opened by the President of Senegal, Dr. Macky Sall, supported by the President of Rwanda, Mr Paul Kagame, accompanied by several African Ministers responsible for Education, Science and Technology. Commissioner Ikounga stressed the need to ensure that mathematics and science are demystified through appropriate progressive pedagogies that can present Mathematics simply as a universal language that can be learnt from the earliest age and by everybody, and not just by a few specially talented. This, he said, is necessary if we are to increase the numbers of children and youth excelling in STEM to provide a rich pipeline for researchers and career scientists in order to harness Africa's demographic dividend for achieving a prosperous Africa. Commissioner further explained that in order to generate science that solves Africa's challenges and generates wealth, it is imperative that the quality of education and training be improved through a paradigm shift that involves student centered approaches, links of education and training programmes with the productive sector, and inculcation of competences and skills for entrepreneurship, innovation and inventiveness. He said that these are spelt out in the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25) as well as the continental strategy for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, and for Science, Technology and Innovation (STISA 20-24). The President and initiator of the Next Einstein Forum, Dr. Thierry Zoumahoun quipped that the next Einstein will be a young woman from Africa, in reference to the need to ensure that women are equally provided with opportunities to excel in the sciences. He stressed that although some of the cutting edge research of the Next Einstein Forum Ambassadors is world class and fundamental, the programme is not elitist but provides opportunities for young Africans from all walks of life, and many of the students carry out applied research directly relevant to current African challenges.
The Next Einstein Forum (NEF), an African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) initiative in partnership with the Robert Bosch Stiftung, is a new global forum for science in Africa intended to strengthen Africa's position on the global scientific stage, promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in Africa and nurturing the next generation of Africa's intellectual and scientific capital, in line with Africa's Agenda 2063. Ministers from Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon were present, as well as chief executives of international organizations involved in scientific research and its funding.
To mark the international women's day, the event held this week was preceded by a workshop on Women in STEM, organized by AIMS. The workshop was presided over by the Executive Vice President of NEF, Ms. Dorothy Nyambi who called for enhanced partnerships for promoting women and girls in STEM. She said that the work of AIMS seeks to address the aspirations and goals expressed in the continental vision of Agenda 2063. The workshop was addressed by Dr Beatrice Njenga, Head of Education Division, who called for expanding opportunity horizons for girls and women in education by moving beyond stereotypical careers. She said that STEM was important not only for women's careers in research and scientific fields, but also for scientific and technological literacy that women require in order to be substantive contributors to and beneficiaries of technological advancements. Otherwise, she said, when the hand-held hoe is abolished, African women may be unable to utilize the higher level technologies that will be available!