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Nigeria’s Okere wins international astronomical union’s award


Dr Bonaventure Okere

By Ijeoma Olorunfemi

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

Guido Schwarz, IAU’s Press Officer, announced the prize winners in a statement issued on the union’s official website page, a copy of which was obtained Sunday in Abuja.

The prizes were in three categories, which included the IAU 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.

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“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.

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.

Schwarz said that the awards would be presented to the winners at the IAU 32nd General Assembly (IAUGA2024) in Cape Town, South Africa, in August.
Okere is presently the Director, Centre for Basic Space Science and Astronomy, an activity centre of NASRDA.

Strubbe is an Astrophysicist, who is currently consulting for a number of physics education projects in the U.S. and working to develop more ways to support African astronomy lecturers and students.


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