“We want to promote scientific inquiry and discovery so that Malawians should not be passive consumers of knowledge but actively engaged.” Science Centre Project Steering Committee (SCPSC)
Help us by donating exhibits!
Malawi is a small country with a population of 14 million people located in south east Africa. Its claim to fame in more recent times, besides the adoption of two children by Madonna, is the Economist Intelligence Unit estimate that it will be the second fastest growing economy in the world in 2009 with a GDP of 8.3%, but despite this, it still remains one of the world’s poorest countries.
Education is a key driver of economic development. Recognizing this, the Malawi government in 1994 implemented free primary education. This led to a rise in primary school students enrollment from 1.9 million to 3.2 million in one academic year, straining the already overstretched resources of the Ministry of Education and pushing further down the low standard and quality of education which is a result of:
- Inadequate funding;
- Lack of laboratories, libraries and computers (e.g. only 34% of the government secondary schools in Blantyre have a science laboratory (Blantyre is the 2nd largest city in Malawi and is the commercial capital);
- Lack of teachers and lack of qualified teachers: Over 60% of teachers teaching in secondary schools are under qualified;
- Poor infrastructure and inadequate teaching material: In Blantyre city there are only 104 classrooms for 10,414 public school students;
- Low teacher motivation: Poor remuneration, dilapidated infrastructure, inadequate teaching materials, and uncertain career progression.
Which has led to:
- Gender imbalance: Approximately 28% of tertiary students are female.
- Repetition, absenteeism, poor performance – less than 50% of students passed the Malawi School Certificate of Education exams in 2007.
- Few students in tertiary education – Less than 1% of Malawians aged 18 to 23 are enrolled in tertiary education.
The science centre
“ a place identified to enable visitors and members of the general public to actively participate in interactive science exhibits and experimentation where hands-on experience of science and technology coupled with fun and joy are given priority”.
The Malawi Science Centre Project Steering Committee (SCPSC), comprises of members from several organizations who came together following their interest in the promotion of science in Malawi. These organization include Department of Science & Technology, Museums of Malawi, New Century Lions Club of Chichiri, College of Medicine and Malawi Bureau of Standards. The science centre will be located in Blantyre at the Museum of Malawi.Blantyre is the commercial capital of Malawi with a population of over 1 million of whom close to 200,000 are primary and secondary school students and 4,000 are teachers. The science centre will support, enrich and complement the existing formal provision of science education; increase public awareness of science and technology; promote a culture of science and technology; and promote science communication and public engagement with science.
Activities to-date and planned
The science centre will showcase various science exhibitions to Malawian students and members of the general public. The ultimate goal of the project is to inculcate a science culture in the country leading to a Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) led economy which is the hallmark strategy of the current government.
The initial phase for the project is to utilize the limited space available at the Chichiri Museum for interested companies and organizations to showcase their science-based exhibitions. The Museum has identified limited space for both indoor and outdoor exhibits at Chichiri Museum for this purpose. The SCPSC has identified several organizations which could possibly provide some science exhibits such as obsolete aircrafts; testing instruments; soap, sugar and milk manufacturing processes; hydropower generation facilities; models of human body parts; telecommunication equipment and many others. It is planned that the official launch of the project will be before the end of the year. The exhibition will officially run for 9 months until 30th June 2010. However some exhibits may remain at the Museum of Malawi indefinitely at the discretion of the exhibitors. On the day of the official launch the exhibits will be manned by respective exhibitors, but thereafter the Museum of Malawi personnel will take responsibility over the exhibits.It is also planned that the project proposal for the fully-fledged Science Centre currently at completion stage will be presented to invited guests on the day.
The Second phase of the project valued at US$3 million will start once the project proposal has been financed. This will involve construction of a purposely built structure for a fully fledged science centre modeled after similar establishments in the world and adapted in the Malawian context. The science centre activities will include outreach programs, a resource centre, auditorium, demonstration laboratory, and a teacher continuous development programs amongst other things.
How can we be supported?
The Malawi Science centre Project is looking for various support to be provided by well wishers as follows:
- Donation of exhibits. These can be old and new, used and disused, big or small, interactive or static. We welcome donations of exhibits on any subject matter – science is a universal language but would like any potential donors to bear in mind exhibits that will be suitable in a Malawian context. The Lions Club of Chichiri as a charitable organization has kindly arranged to assist with funding the shipment of any donated items.
- Financing the project proposal;
- Advisory support for the centre;
- Any other way.
Science Centre Project Steering Committee:
Willy Muyila (Malawi Bureau of Standards)
Michael Gondwe (Museum of Malawi)
Lovemore Mazibuko (Museum of Malawi)
Aaron Maluwa (Museum of Malawi)
Yohanne Nyirenda (Museum of Malawi)
Rex Kanjedza (Department of Science and Technology)
George Chirombe (New Century Lions Club of Chichiri)
Muza Gondwe (University of Western Australia)
For further information contact:
Secretray, Science Centre Project Steering Committee
Malawi Bureau of Standards, Blantyre
Office: +265 1 870 488
University of Western Australia, Perth
Great! The raison d’etre, above, for setting up a science centre apply with equal (or even more) force to Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. Now you’ll be our forerunners! Perhaps a steering committee from here, once constituted (Science Cafe Nigeria hopes to push the agenda), will get to visit Malawi, apart from South Africa, to see how it is to start small and grow whichever way your dreams take you!
I am happy to see this article about the science center which started as a small idea by one of our charter members Lion Muza. Its good to see that this project will have a lasting impact to the development of science for our pupils who have poor science resources in schools. As Chichiri Lions we are hapy to be associated with the project will see it through.
Great and indeed more than a mile ahead!!! As a Malawian Scientist with keen interest to be part and parcel of the scientific development team in Malawi, I am more than excited to hear about this development. In fact, we must also be aware that we are moving towards a Global village and from my experience; the technological and scientific principles will be eventually an International requirement if we are to compete globally. Already at the moment, we are bound by the stringent International Quality systems and regulations in order to have a proper competitive market base. Let us join our hands and together, let us help put our country on the World Map in terms of scientific advancement. I will be more than happy to offer any advisory support that may be required
Food Scientist, Qiuality and Food Safety Trainer, Member of the Nutrition Society and the International Food Safety and Quality Network.
Thanks Martha! Its good to know that we have the support of a female Malawian scientist!
Inadequate lab facilites in secondary school
What’s the latest news on the Centre?
Apologies this one slipped through the cracks. Its slow but steady. Dr. Graham Walker from the Australian National University is visiting in March to conduct science shows for schools and teachers. The Musuem of Malawi is organizing the itinerary. He has extensive experience working with science centres in South Africa. The hope is this can be second step (the first step was the temporary science exhibits that were on display two years ago) in thinking critically and creatively about developing the centre in Malawi.