Speaking the same language

18 March 2016 - By: Hephzi Tagoe

Speaking the same language

In text


By Hephzi Tagoe
PhD student, University College London

I had my early years’ education in Ghana where the educational curriculum, particularly science, was very narrow, theoretically centred and lacked inspiration. Having the opportunity to access secondary and higher education in the UK exposed me to the practical and applicable world of science I never experienced. For me, it meant a complete overhaul of my outlook on STEM, STEM related careers and, more importantly, the essence of science communication and public engagement with science.  It was for this reason that I jumped at the opportunity to be a STEM Ambassador when I encountered STEMNET(1). Each time I volunteered my time, be it at a science exhibition, a careers fair, a workshop or giving a talk, it was a chance to learn and evaluate the process and impact of engaging the public with science. 

In 2014, I signed up to attend a science communication training day organised by the SEB, the Biochemical Society and the Royal Society of Biology. Turns out this was the final push I needed to step out of my comfort zone. Later that year, I partnered with my brother, a fellow scientist who was looking to return to Ghana to set up GhScientific(2), a science based organisation with the focus on promoting science communication and public engagement in Ghana. We are working to encourage our fellow scientists in the country to take time away from the bench into the community so that the public can better understand and appreciate the importance of science, as well as inspiring school pupils to explore science outside the classroom. 

Welcome funding

While we appreciate the challenge ahead, our projects over the year have already begun to make an impact and we are positive that a sustained effort will contribute to making a difference. The organisation received a grant from the Wellcome Trust last year to run our first public engagement with science project, SHAPE (Shaping Healthy Attitudes and Protecting the Environment). SHAPE is connecting high school students with scientists (mentors) and university students (STEM Ambassadors) to research the impact of environmental pollutants on community health, and to further design innovative solutions to resolve them. Sixteen schools have been selected to take part in the project, from which eight teams have been formed. Final presentations will be taking place in October this year. 

Booking volunteers

We have also launched a science book tour fundraiser via GoFundMe me to circulate science themed children’s books to primary schools in the country. The Royal Society donated a significant number of books and we are looking to expand the library so we can work with as many schools as possible. Our volunteer scientists will visit the schools once a month to run through some of the activities with the kids and answer any questions they may have. 

At the World Economic Forum 2015, it was reported that Africa produced only 1.1% of global scientific knowledge.  We believe a collective effort by the science community in the country can go a long way to improve these figures and to further encourage today’s generation and the next to take up STEM careers. It’s an exciting and fulfilling journey ahead and we invite you to come along!

References:


1. STEMNET Ambassadors  http://www.stemnet.org.uk/ambassadors/
2. GhScientific http://ghscientific.com/
3. Ghana Science  Book Tour https://www.gofundme.com/5x5mpftw
4. UNESCO Science Report 2010 http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001899/189958e.pdf

 
Category: Teaching and Learning
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Hephzi Angela Tagoe

Hephzi Angela Tagoe is a freelance science communicator with a focus on reaching the underrepresented audience in Science. She is a second year PhD Student at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and also the CEO and co-founder of GhScientific, an NGO promoting science communication and public engagement with science in Ghana.