Sunday, February 3, 2013

NM AIST - Arusha: Kuna Mengi ya Chumba Chini

On November 1, 2012, I had the distinct pleasure of being a part of the inaugural activities of The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha, Tanzania, presenting one of  three inaugural public lectures. The first was given by Professor Mramba Nyindo, a specialist in parasitology, entymology, and immunology, and author of 2 books (Animal Diseases due to Protozoa and Rickettsia and Life in Science, From Village to PhD and Back). Prof. Nyindo, a delightful senior academic, spoke on "Trends in Science Education: The role of the Teacher and Student." I spoke on "Plenty of Room at the Bottom: Science, Technology, and Innovation in African Development"  [Kuna Mengi ya Chumba Chini: Sayansi, Teknolojia Na Ubunifu Katika Afrika]. My title was a reference to Richard Feynman's famous 1959 lecture "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom. An Invitation to Enter a New Field of Physics."   Prof. Wole Soboyejo, President of The African University of Science and Technology in Abuja (AUST-Abuja, Nigeria), spoke on challenges and opportunities for science and technology research in Africa.

There were numerous memorable moments at the event: 
  • The opportunity to savor the beauty of the surroundings and new buildings 
  • The unveiling of busts of Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere with stirring words of wisdom on the plaques below them: "Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of a farm worker can become the president of a great nation." (Nelson Mandela) and  ". . . intellectuals have a special contribution to make to the development of our nation, and to Africa. And I am asking that their knowledge and the greater understanding that they should possess, should be used for the benefit of the society of which we are all members." (Julius Nyerere)


  • The vibrant music and dancing and celebratory feeling among all who attended to see this dream becoming real 
  • Listening to the heart-felt words of the President of Tanzania (Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete), the Vice President (Dr. Mohamed Gharib Bilal), the Vice Chancellor of AIST-Arusha
    (Prof. Burton L.M Mwamila)
    [see picture top right], and Dr. Frannie Leautier, Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) [see picture below]
 

In the future I plan to share some video clips I took during the celebration, as well as more observations from the inauguration, but will close today by including the university's current vision of its departments, as shown in the diagram below. While this diagram will likely evolve as the institute grows, I was greatly encouraged and intrigued to note that each of the five clusters surrounding the center circle includes both science and engineering. If this was a deliberate intent to incorporate both science and engineering into each cluster (in contrast to traditional models where each is treated as a separate entity) NM-AIST may well be setting up a model that can lead the way for others.



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