Water: damn that dam, say the residents of a Ghanaian region, farmers who were removed to make way for a dam to supply water to residents of the country’s second-biggest town, Kumasi. According to Dr Tyhra Carolyn Kumasi of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, that was the message communicated loud and clear by the victims of the forced removals, who made way for water, but don’t have any running water for themselves, not even pit toilets.
Communication, she said, is a priority for people affected by largescale infrastructure projects, whether these are dams, train lines or roads. But it must include listening to the people affected, not just telling them when to move or else. And in her own work, she suggested to residents that they may want to argue for becoming shareholders of such projects, so they can have some benefit, a benefit which can last longer than cash payoffs.
Fish: Derek Fish, head of the University of Zululand science centre in the region of South Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean and the Mozambican border, is trying to do a master’s degree on the impact of science centres. Such an effort, he wryly noted, was on par with buttonholing audience members on their way home from a symphony concert and demanding to know if they’re suddenly motivated to take up the cello.
But The Fish (not to be mistaken for a wellknown local soccer hero with the same surname) saved some of his passion for the evidence that the classrooms in South Africa are dysfunctional. He showed the Trends In Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). There’s South Africa at the bottom, in the first year, beaten by Ghana and a host of other countries. There’s South Africa at the bottom, in the second year of the study, beaten by Morocco. There’s South Africa at the bottom for the third time, beaten by all and sundry. (Consistency is not always a virtue, it seems.) And then?
Silence. The South African government decided there was no point in participating in the survey until they got better results. Problem: they won’t know if they’re getting any better, because they’re boycotting the darn survey!
Aquatic biodiversity requires human diversity in order to be studied properly. So says Vanessa Rouhani of the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, who says that their winter school is a life-changer. People who weren’t planning to do degrees find themselves in academia. Would-be academics enter tougher or previously unknown fields, like molecular biology. PhDs pop up behind people’s surnames.
Christina Scott, SciDev.Net