June 16, 2024

Nigeria’s Bonaventure Okere wins international astronomical prize for impact in education

Nigeria’s Bonaventure Okere wins international astronomical prize for impact in education

Dr. Bonaventure Okere, an esteemed astronomer with the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), has been awarded the 2024 International Astronomical Union (IAU) prize for astronomy education in Africa.

The announcement was made by Guido Schwarz, the IAU’s Press Officer, in a statement on the union’s official website, a copy of which was obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday.

The IAU prizes, established in 2022, are awarded in three categories: Astronomy Outreach, Development, and Education (ODE).

“The IAU has announced the 2024 winners of three IAU prizes that were created in 2022.

“The three awards recognise individuals and organisations who have made outstanding contributions to the fields of astronomy outreach, development and education.

“The 2024 ODE Education prize is awarded to Linda Strubbe and Okere for their leadership in creating high-quality educational experiences in astronomy for African university students.

“ Okere led the foundation of the Pan-African School for Emerging Astronomers (PASEA) at the IAU 28th General Assembly, in Beijing to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education in Nigeria and Africa.’’

Schwarz said that Okere’s partner, Strubbe, had been central in creating very high-quality educational experiences in PASEA through her design, leadership and teaching.

According to Schwarz, Okere’s work draws on a particularly strong evidence base across the educational curriculum; from professional development for PASEA instructors to the evaluation of student’s learning.

“The inquiry-based curriculum intertwines teaching content with scientific practices, and is highly regarded by students, building on Bonaventure Okere’s vision of leveraging the world-class astronomy facilities on the continent.

“The impact of Strubbe’s and Okere’s initiative, leadership, and excellence in implementing PASEA is already enormous and will continue to grow into the future,” he said.

He said that PASEA had trained no fewer than 300 students across 18 African countries, with the sixth school being held in Tunisia this year.

Bonaventure Okere, in his response, said that with the many observatories across Africa, he had always pondered on how to contribute to the development of astronomers from Africa who would play key roles in the observatories.

He said the collaborative journey to build a critical mass of astronomers across Africa began in 2012 and led to the founding of PASEA, adding that he was honoured to receive the prize for team PASEA.

Other prize winners were Saran Poshyachinda for IAU Outreach and the Central American-Caribbean Bridge in Astrophysics for the IAU Development.

A total of 62 valid nominations were received, with both the nominators and nominees spanning the entire globe.

The awards will be formally presented at the IAU 32nd General Assembly (IAUGA2024) in Cape Town, South Africa, in August.

Dr. Bonaventure Okere currently serves as the Director of the Centre for Basic Space Science and Astronomy at NASRDA, while Linda Strubbe continues to contribute to physics education projects in the U.S. and support African astronomy education.

Vanguard News