Monthly Archives: December, 2016

Planet Earth Institute 2016 Summary


2016 was a big year for the Planet Earth Institute, full of new and exciting projects, grants, new partnerships and more. In a yearly review published by the organisation, The Planet Earth Institute has identified four achievements it is particularly proud of. Firstly, the launch of the HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim PhD Scholarship Programme, followed by a substantial endowment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to further their work in Africa, the launch of the Science, Technology Enrolment Programme (STEP) in Mauritius and the #ScienceAfrica UnConference the Planet Earth Institute hosted in London.

The Institute hopes to expand these programmes and building upon the successes of 2016. The HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim PhD Scholarship Programme awarded 10 pilot grants this year and hopes to fund a total of 10,000 PhD’s over the course of the next decade. The programme is built on a partnership between the Planet Earth Institute, the African Academy of Science and a network of international business leaders, including Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, and international institutions.

The generous donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be used to run an advocacy campaign in the coming year. The campaign will focus on generating resources for research and development projects in Africa. Targeting governments, international businesses, and international institutions, the Planet Earth Institute hopes to persuade organisations to spend more on science education and research, which it believes will boost development in Africa.

Alongside a focus on higher education and high-level R&D investment, the Planet Earth Institute has attended to the future of young Africa students by creating STEP. The programme ran several interactive, hands-on study days in Mauritius, giving students the chance to learn about science and meet professionals. The Institute hopes this will encourage students to pursue a science centred education.

The #ScienceAfrica UnConference in London brought together experts, academics, business representatives and international organisations including the World Bank and the United Nations. Dr Alvaro Sobrinho and HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim gave speeches to the audience, along with contributions from many other high-profile guests. The conference focused on how to inspire a new generation of scientific leaders in Africa.

After a year of growth and new challenges the Planet Earth Institute will be looking towards a bright and productive 2017, a year in which the scientific advancement of Africa will surely take a big step forward.

Angola Hosts First STEP Study Event

In late November the Planet Earth Institute announced that it would be expanding its Science Technology Enrolment Programme (STEP) to Angola. This expansion took place this week with the launch on STEP Angola on the island of Mussulo, Angola. The launch was marked by a 5 day event, attended by 150 Angolan school children.

Over the course of the 5 day STEP study week, children were taught about important elements of science including air resistance, static and paper chromatography. Practical scientific information was delivered through the means of hands on activities, including the use of a parachute to demonstrate air resistance.

Music, dance and performance were combined with science during the event. On the last day, children created a short play to demonstrate what they had learnt about science over the last few days. The entire event was hosted in English with translation, in an effort to improve the students understanding and confidence with the language.
STEP in Angola hopes to reach 1500 Angolan students during the coming year. The programme aims to inspire students to study the sciences, in the hope that this will improve the low enrolment rates for science prevalent across the continent. Dr Alvaro Sobrinho has emphasised the importance of science education in Africa, explaining the need for well-educated graduates in the kind of high-tech economy that is developing in Africa.

In Mauritius, STEP has already reached 500 students, exposing them to the intriguing world of science through demonstrations, science days and giving them the opportunity to meet professionals in the field. The Planet Earth Institute hopes to continue the programme in Mauritius in 2017 while simultaneously expanding to Angola. In the long run the organisation hopes to run the programme across Africa, giving all African students the chance to learn more about science and the opportunities it offers.

STEP into Space: PEI Hosts Successful Study Day

The Planet Earth Institute hosted the most recent edition of the STEP (Science, Technology Enrolment Programme) initiative in Mauritius earlier this week. The programme focused on space science and the role it can play in Africa’s development. More than 50 children attended the study day, many reported to have found it throughly interesting and inspiring.

Students were treated to the presence of Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, BBC TV presenter and space science specialist. The day started with a speech from H.E. Madame President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius and trustee of the Planet Earth Institute. Her inspiring speech was followed by a presentation from Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock on the importance of space science, the solar system and satellites.

After the presentation students took part in hands-on activities, discussions and group work. Throughout the day students were taught about the impact of space science on their everyday lives, including its role in communications, mapping and the internet.

The Planet Earth Institute has focused its attention on space science since the African Union signed its first African Space Policy and Strategy document into existence in January. The institute first hosted a high-profile conference in London on the topic and is now encouraging students to pay attention to the subject.

This was the 7th STEP study day hosted by the Planet Earth Institute this year. The programme promotes STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects to secondary school students across Africa, in the hope that they will be inspired to study STEM subjects at a higher level.

More than 500 students have attended a STEP study day and more are planned for the coming year. The programme recently announced the intention to host STEP days in Angola, beginning later this month. In relation to STEP’s Mauritius programme, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho explained that in 2017, “STEP will continue to work with a diverse range of stakeholders to ensure that students in Mauritius can learn about new and exciting aspects of science, as well as appreciate its vital importance to their country’s future”.