Africa needs skills for SKA

2012-07-09 16:05

Pretoria - African countries need more scientists for research on the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope to succeed, an official said in Pretoria on Monday.

Head of astronomy at the National Research Foundation (NRF), Nithaya Chetty, said it was essential for the continent to start investing in human capacity development.

"It is going to be absolutely tragic, if all we do is build up the infrastructure and we don't have sufficient African scientists to utilise the excellent facilities," he said.

"The question around human capital is certainly relevant not only to South Africa but throughout Africa. Remember, the SKA is not a South Africa project but an African one," said Chetty.

"The plan is to develop radio astronomy into the rest of Africa. We will be building telescopes in various other African counties including Namibia, Botswana, Kenya, Zambia and Ghana."

He said the NRF was prioritising the development of human capacity to work on the landmark project.

South Africa partnered with other countries in the southern hemisphere in its bid to be selected as the location of what will be the largest radio telescope ever built.

The central part of the telescope would be in the Karoo region of Northern Cape province whilst outlying stations would be erected in Botswana, Madagascar, Namibia, Ghana, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya and Mauritius.

The other segment of the SKA would be built in Australia and New Zealand.

Outreach programmes

Chetty said there were numerous outreach programmes currently underway to attract new astronomers and develop existing human capacity.

He said there had been intensified interest from schools across South Africa, since the announcement of the SKA decision.

"Astronomy is such an interesting vehicle for getting young people into science. If you take a telescope to any school and show them [students] the other structures in our galaxy, they start imagining and thinking beyond immediate confines.

"It is a fantastic way to excite young children into science and that is ultimately what we want. We want to produce more scientists and more graduates," he said.

Chetty said the NRF's outreach projects were also covering rural areas, where mainly economically disadvantaged children were found.

During an SKA-Meerkat Schools Competition prize-giving event on Monday, Pandor said the milestone project presented an unrivalled opportunity for the development of high-level skills and expertise in Africa.

"We don't want to rely on extracting raw materials from mines and exporting them to other countries any longer. Many leading economies in the world produce no mining raw materials at all. They rely on knowledge and innovation for economic growth," she said.

The SKA, valued at €1.5bn, is expected to be completed in 2024.

  • thebe.tau - 2012-07-09 16:20

    There is enough brain power in Africa to achieve that and it will be achieved.

      joe.farmer.92775 - 2012-07-09 16:27

      but how are we going to understand all the chinese scientists currently in Africa. we could always offer chinese at school, I am sure the 30% pass mark and no text books will not be a problem

      fussed.anderson - 2012-07-09 16:59

      This is the african way, bid for something and then find a way to make them work. The same happened with the arms deal and the subs for eg

      theo.schoeman.71 - 2012-07-09 17:11

      OMG now i am laughing my ass off.. haven't heard such a funny remark in years ! Thanks thebu for making me laugh. If this brain power in Africa do exist why the hell is Africa in such a mess. Ooh sorry... forgot - apartheid, colonialists, America, Ireal, the British they all to blame.

      jack.milosevic - 2012-07-09 17:19

      @thebe.tau are right...who needs skills/education when we have Affirmative Action. VIVA

  • Randomhero6661 - 2012-07-09 16:22

    Please don F@ck this up...

  • gary.stockenstroom - 2012-07-09 16:39

    Have you seen the salaries they're offering? How on earth are they going to lure the best brains in country to Carnarvon with those terrible packages? This looks like a false start already.

      fussed.anderson - 2012-07-09 17:02

      Yes I know but you also get free education for you children if you work there. That is a big PLUSS to get the right people for the job

      gary.stockenstroom - 2012-07-09 19:52

      fussed.anderson: that's not what the ads are saying. You must be on the propaganda team for this pipe dream.

      LanfearM - 2012-07-10 11:15

      @ gary.stockenstroom - fully agreed! It is disgraceful what our government offers scientists and researchers for salaries! And then they wonder why the best go either overseas or the private sector.

  • Erna - 2012-07-09 16:39

    Shouldn't this have been considered before SA applied? And what is the definition of an African scientit?

      Hermann - 2012-07-09 16:42

      Definition by ANC mindset is non-Caucasian and uneducated.

      Erna - 2012-07-09 17:18

      I guess you didn't notice my Freudian slip - scientit?

  • rob.bayliss.94 - 2012-07-09 16:54

    mmmmm!!!! Was this perhaps a tad ambitious, or maybe outright hubris??? We shall see I guess.

  • gerhardus.windpomp - 2012-07-09 17:00

    The construction on this project will be completed before all the schools get text books.

      theo.schoeman.71 - 2012-07-09 17:13

      Hahaha we live in a very funny country - never a dull moment

      Mike.ntsh2009 - 2012-07-09 17:41

      Gehardus; You and cronies always tell us how good, skilled and educated certain race in this country is. Now is time for you to give something back to the country that you ruined. You should be lucky nobody opted for you to be driven to the sea. As if you are the only educated bunch, c'mon and prove yourself rather than moan.

      Mike.ntsh2009 - 2012-07-10 07:53

      Clive; Don't believe what you read in papers religiously. If what you say was true, middle to senior management in companies would not be dominated by a male white race. If you take a number of the latter in companies expressed as a percentage of white population you will understand what I am talking about.

      LanfearM - 2012-07-10 11:19

      @ Mike.tsh2009 - the "country that you ruined..." Oh how the propaganda machine and revisionist history is warping the mind of South Africa's people. What a pity. Besides, why don't you, the majority who always claim you are just as good, clever, able, capable, etc. etc. etc. take on this job? Educate the majority, it will only better for this country in the long run. Oh well, since we are slinging some mud, you opted not to drive us into the sea; we opted not to exterminate you. Are we done now with such stupid little recriminations. Well dear Mikey, if you want to be in management, get an education, be able, be capable and the ultimate clencher, why don't you open your own businesses and companies?

  • jan.vanriebeeck.73 - 2012-07-09 20:47

    In 1994 there were 22 000 qualified, registered electrical engineers in SA. Somebody I know was one of them, he was employed by the government fixing top level medical equipment in hospitals until he was retrenched to make space for previously disadvantaged engineers. Two months later the ANC government asked him to please come back to his job, he declined the offer and now does contract work for the government doing 100% the same job he did before, except now he make 5 times as much money and he works his own hours. Currently there are less than 2000 qualified electrical engineers in South Africa doing double the the work than in 1994. I'm curious where they're suddenly going to source the extra highly skilled engineers to work on this project.

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