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“I was greatly transformed while learning about how science could heal sickness”

1st December is World AIDS day. It is a day devoted to uniting people in the fight against HIV, showing support for people living with HIV and commemorating those who have died from AIDS. Today, we bring the story of Ghanaian lady scientist Nadia Sam-Agudu who is involved in treating children who are infected with HIV.

I am a pediatrician, which means I am a doctor who takes care of children. My extra training in infectious diseases helps me to be able to manage diseases like malaria, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and HIV in children. I chose to take care of children because of the need for every society, but especially African societies, to produce the most capable and healthy future leaders. I cannot imagine a more humbling and important responsibility than taking care of a child. Nelson Mandela said: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.”
"I crafted my career choice to benefit African children!" Dr. Nadia Sam-Agudu is examining an HIV exposed baby

“I crafted my career choice to benefit African children!” Dr. Nadia Sam-Agudu is examining an HIV exposed baby

Most of what I remember about primary school science was from class four to six. I was fortunate to attend an elite school, but I don’t remember our science classes being that diverse or exciting. We certainly did not put together any science experiments, which I think we should do more of, in our schools. I do remember mostly learning about flowers, plants, insects etc-mostly biology. There is so much more to learn, and we really should expand our curriculum to more physics and chemistry. For example, pupils should be encouraged and guided to use their knowledge of how to set up electric circuits to build small appliances. Chemistry lessons can have practical applications such as taking students through the process of making soap-or or even demonstrating that cooking, yes, making food- is chemistry! Even if a child will not choose a science career, early exposure to science fosters and feeds curiosity, and will promote lifelong learning.

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We hope reading the story about how Nadia made it into her career inspires you to consider what you can also do about HIV. Find ideas and information here in our ScientiFACTs about HIV & AIDS

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As a child I occasionally fancied being an airline pilot, but deep down, I had always wanted to be a doctor. That never changed! In secondary school I was so fascinated by science, especially biology, so I studied straight from the textbook and wrote my own notes. I didn’t depend only on what was taught in class because in such a situation a poorly-trained teacher could hamper my success – I wouldn’t allow that. Also I had some very good teachers who I made sure to learn maximally from. The science textbooks were very good, and I was fortunate that my parents could afford to buy them for me.

It is usually not a problem in secondary school to be allowed to study a course of one’s choice, however difficulties come up in University where some students may not get their preferred course because there are not enough spaces, or the standard for entry may be too high. I went to a University in the US, where getting your course is not usually a problem even if you are an average student. The first degree was however not adequate for finding work in Ghana, at least the kind of work I was looking for. I wanted to be a doctor, and that required a graduate program. I went on to medical school, where I was greatly transformed while learning about how science could heal sickness. I focused on learning about infections affecting children.

I crafted my career choice so that I could be maximally beneficial to African children. I remember one little girl I took care of, when I was working in Uganda. I was working as a malaria scientist, trying to find the best ways to treat the worst cases of malaria. I will call the little girl Precious – she was about three years old, and she had very intense malaria, to the point that it affected her brain. This kind of malaria is called “cerebral malaria.” Precious was brought to the hospital in a coma, meaning she could not speak or respond to anything. It was as if she were dead. Myself and other doctors gave Precious a drip with glucose (sugar) in it, plus a new malaria medicine that worked very fast, through the drip. Within a few hours, Precious was awake. By the next day, she was eating. In three days, she went home, looking very lively! I cannot imagine doing anything else. Healthy children make smart children who can become productive adults for a stable and progressive country.

To others, especially girls who wish to take after me, I’d say don’t compromise on your choice of career.  Stick to what you want to do, what you think will make you happy and satisfied. If you want to do science, don’t allow anyone to tell you it is not appropriate. If you don’t get your choice, as much as you can afford it, go to another school or another country to do it. A good thing also is to find a practicing professional whose career path and current work you can learn about and follow, and also support from adults around you in achieving your goals.

Dr. Nadia Sam-Agudu works at the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria and is also associated with the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, USA as a technical advisor in pediatric HIV.

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Hurray! ScientifiKIDs session I started!

A vacation full of fantastic SCIENCExperience!

ScientifiKIDs was launched at Akosombo International School in July 2012. It demanded a lot of time, work and resources from the pioneer ScientifiKIDs, but it was all very much fun and a relaxed atmosphere that had us visiting gardens, homes close by and an exclusive excursion to the Akosombo Hydroelectric Power Generation Station, a.k.a the “Dam”, Ghana’s main source of electricity.

Several days were spent to select topics, assemble materials, set up and rehearse projects as a learning activity as well as a filmed performance.

Text and note books were revised to refresh memories on the explanations of phenomena that experiments and demonstrations would illustrate.

  • Shadow fun!
  • Discovering the nature of light
  • Is that me?
  • Young scientist on field study
  • Discovering the functions of plants
  • Building an electromagnet
  • Generating electricity!
  • Does fire need oxygen?
  • Orientation session with Mr Bedu
  • Wiring an electro magnet
  • Separating mixtures
  • En route to Akosombo Dam
  • Entering Akosombo electricity plant
  • Electrified young scientists...
  • ...and enthustistic teachers!
  • ScientifiKIDS 100%
  • Electricity team planning...
  • Girls leading in science!
  • Our camera crew at work
Mootools Image Slideshow by WOWSlider.com v3.3

Teams of varied sizes from a minimum of 2 and maximum of 7 persons formed and created 12 projects covering topics from life, earth and physical branches of science, including a teenie-weenie lesson about a giant and most dominant element found in space. One look at the picture below and you can name it.

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Acknowledgements of support for ScientifiKIDs Season I

  • Akosombo International School (AIS): Science educators, science lab, materials and participants
  • Savannah Communications a.k.a. Mr. Tony Akpene Klu: Transport
  • Volta River Estates through Mr. A. Blay: Snacks (thanks for the fresh bananas!!!)
  • VRA Akosombo Power Generation Station: Volta Dam tour
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Science class revisited

Our journalist Obayaa Annan is currently visiting public and private schools in Ghana’s Greater Accra Region to visit science classes. Her aim is get an overview about science and education, and also to negotiate future co-operations with ScientifiKIDs.

  • This is African Child School
  • in Achimota. Our jounalist...
  • Obayaa went there...
  • to visit science classes:
  • There she met Margaret.
  • She wants to become a doctor and cure deadly diseases.
  • Here she is mixing potassium and water.
  • Kelvin wants to measure the density of a stone...
  • ...and gets help from Margaret!
  • Vera is blowing air...
  • into lime water to show...
  • that she breathes out CO2.
  • Does light travel...
  • in a straight line?
  • Or can it shine around the corner?
  • Discussing the findings...
Mootools Image Slideshow by WOWSlider.com v3.3

 

In March 2013, she has visited two schools: “African Child School” and “Victory Preparation School”, both in Achimota / Accra. We will soon post a detailled report. In the mean time, watch a short slide show about Obayaa’s visit at “African Child”.

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Interview with Audrey Opoku-Acheampong

“My word of inspiration to young people, especially girls,  is that you can really do anything you put your mind to so far as you are determined and self-disciplined.There is no such thing as ‘guys subjects’ or ‘girls subjects’ so do not limit yourself!’’

In childhood, Audrey wished to become a medical doctor or pharmacist. She journeyed from primary school at Kaneshie, through Achimota School to University of Ghana and is today in Kansas studying in an area that is concerned with health – Nutrition. Audrey had previously studied Oceanography at the University of Ghana. She did not find a job in this field right after school, so she took up jobs outside the field of science. She however maintained her passion, convinced also that in her chosen field, a second degree is important for getting a good job.

Audrey Opoku Acheampong
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“I went in to do General Arts, I came out with a Science certificate!”

Akosua Agyen-Frimpong
by Dr Mrs Akosua Agyen-Frimpong, Senior House Officer at the Ridge Regional Hospital, Accra

For as for long as I can remember I wanted to be a doctor. I wish I knew how or why I developed the interest but it might have had something to do with my dad who happened to be one. I should say I had a good start, my basic education being in at Akosombo International School with highly qualified and dedicated teachers who brought out the best in us as students.

I must say I was a pretty good student and won a few awards for myself. Looking back I was very serious with my studies, sometimes waking up at dawn to study for my exams. It seems funny now… waking up at dawn to learn long division, story problems and the like but then it was serious business for me. I wanted nothing but maximum scores and so I worked for it. This was further facilitated by the discipline I received at home. At home, there were strict rules on time for TV, playing, siesta and studies. I’m the last of 6 kids and so my elder siblings always came up with ways to bend the rules sometimes to their breaking point and then you would face the music. Just writing about this brings such fond memories of my childhood.

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Upcoming workshops for the 2013 season

Regularly encouraging curiosity about science lays the foundation for children’s future careers.

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The first ScientifiKIDs teams aged 4 to 15 years old carried out their projects in July 2012 during long vacation at the campus of Akosombo International School (AIS). In the upcoming 2013 season ScientifiKIDs workshops will come off at

  • Akosombo for communities around the Volta River Dam in Asuogyaman District-Eastern Region and
  • Achimota for sub-urban kids in Okaikoi-North Sub-Metro District, Greater Accra Region.

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I love Science!

Abiko Bremer
by Abiko Bremer, TV Producer/Director

Former schoolmates and teachers … feel free to laugh! I feared science courses for all the typical reasons young people cite for avoiding them, thus towed an arts-line focusing tertiary studies on TV Production and Directing, Theatre Arts, English & Community Development.

I was inspired to initiate ScientifiKIDs as a result of feeling very challenged whilst assisting my daughter do her primary science homework, also through insights gained as the pioneering manager of MultiTV 4KIDS Channel and from managing various children’s educational and development projects at Mmofra Foundation. My experiences impelled a quest to innovate an entertaining and efficient informal approach to learning for children like me and my daughter to gain confidence in own potentials and be able to have an early mastery of science – the resulting project is ScientifiKIDs.

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ScientifiKIDs video trailer screened at AIS 50th anniversary

On 24th September 1962 Akosombo International School (AIS) opened its doors. Some 50 years later, Scientifikids took off at AIS with a first series of workshops. The video footage of the 12 experiments of the 2012 season is currently at a post-production stage of a TV show pilot.

A video trailer was screened on the occasion of Akosombo International School’s 50th’s anniversary celebrations held on 27 September 2012 and attended by more than 800 guests!

Click on the picture to watch the video: