Science Week Organized in Namibia to Boost Public Engagement with Science

Science Week was held in Namibia over 22–26 November and 6–11 December 2021, under the theme ‘Better Health Through Better Understanding’. Organized by UNESCO, the Goethe Institute, Ministry of Mines and Energy and Swakopmund Museum. The objective of Science Week was to promote public engagement with science through hands-on, enjoyable activities.
About 212 school children, 20 young researchers and 20 members of the public participated in the activities.
Thirty-six secondary-school children participated in two sessions of coding and robotics on 22 and 24 November, supported by Minds in Action, a Namibia-based organization with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Using SCRATCH coding software, the learners simulated the transmission of the Covid-19 disease.
A panel discussion was held on 25 November on the wellbeing of scientists, featuring three scientists who represented the fields of metallurgy, chemistry and engineering. The audience comprised of about 20 university students and early career scientists, three-quarters of whom were under 30 years of age.
Panellists discussed some of the challenges faced by scientists in Namibia today, including what they perceived as a shortage of laboratory equipment and chemicals and a lack of robust mental health facilities and support. 
The panellists identified some opportunities to strengthen Namibia’s science ecosystem, such as by expanding the provision of mental health clinics, which could provide professional counselling; promote lifelong learning; improve policy implementation; and raise public awareness of national success stories in science.
Some of the challenges and opportunities identified by the panellists reflect the provisions of the Recommendations on Science and Scientific Researchers, an international accord that sets common standards for science, adopted by UNESCO’s 195 member states in November 2017. For instance, paragraph 28 of the Recommendations reads:
‘Member States should encourage the provision of facilities so that scientific researchers enjoy lifelong opportunities for keeping themselves up to date in their own and in other scientific fields […]’

Namibia is participating in the project Strengthening STI Systems for Sustainable Development in Africa, an initiative funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). The project is supporting Namibia in its efforts to strengthen its national innovation system in line with the Recommendations.

Other activities held during Science Week included a workshop on non-violent communications and mental health, as well as a screening of the Goethe Science Festival films at the Swakopmund Museum and other locations.