Letter from Africa: More science and less politics

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Source: BBC

In our series of letters from African journalists, Ghanaian writer Elizabeth Ohene considers the importance of teaching science.

I went to the Nigerian capital, Abuja, earlier this month to attend a graduation ceremony.

Abuja had always seemed to me to be a suitable place for serious scientific research.

It is the politics that seemed to me to be out of place.

I once suggested that the new Nigerian capital was a soulless, un-Nigerian place that would never get the verve and tempo of a truly Nigerian city.

A sunrise over Abuja, Nigeria - 2015
Image captionAbuja was built in the 1980s and became Nigeria’s official capital in 1991

When Nigeria won the bid for the African University of Science and Technology (AUST) to be sited in Abuja, it did strike me that it was probably a good place to put a science and technology institution.

AUST was established in 2007 and meant to answer the call by former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa that the World Bank and the African Union work together to create strong pan-African centres of excellence to improve sub-Saharan Africa’s capacity in science and technology.

Thus was born a network of the now so-called Nelson Mandela Research Institutes.

AUST in Abuja was the first of these centres of excellence and the others are in Burkina Faso, Tanzania and South Africa.

The story of how the bid was won, how the then-minister of finance convinced the president and the Abuja minister to support the project and how a group of Africans in the diaspora came together to push it and how the then-president of the World Bank was made to give a substantial grant, all deserve to be told one day, as it is a truly interesting story – but at the moment I just want to tell the story of the graduation ceremony.

Medical tourism

After almost 10 years of existence, AUST has an impressive campus and offers graduate-level programmes.

President Muhammadu BuhariImage copyrightAFP. nli,m

Fifty-one students graduated at the master of science level and 17 at the doctoral level.

But the day I got to Abuja, the only story in town was President Muhammadu Buhari’s trip to the UK to seek medical attention.

Should he have gone outside the country to seek medical attention?

Was that a vote of no confidence in Nigerian doctors and the health care available in the country, and did he not promise to end so-called medical tourism?

The graduation of the scientists did not get a mention anywhere.

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Categories: Africa, The Muslim Times

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