The developing countries need a technological
development not onlyr to benefit from the discoveries of the last
century but also to develop their own technologies, useful
in their environment. Note that a technological development contrasts
a transfer of technology from industrial countries. It is dependent
on an infrastructure of a general understanding of the natural sciences
among the inhabitants. The basic understanding should be obtained
in primary and high school.
An educational growth in a poor country
or region can be speeded up through collaborations with persons from
richer countries. In such a collaboration, one of the most important
"rules" to remember is that potential and intelligence of
persons from both sides is the same quality. The poorer ones have
a setback due only to fewer opportunities to make use of their gifts
towards education and research in the way this is possible in richer
countries. One should also remember that they have a solid knowledge
and wisdom useful in their living situation. This is valid in all
stages of education, and if this is made use of in the educational
process, it will give self-reliance to the pupils/students and ease
the absorption of new knowledge and show its relation to daily life.
During the 1980s, it was becoming very
clear that research in physics and mathematics was losing ground in
many developing countries and this occurrence was fairly evident in
Africa, where, due to disastrous proceedings 15-20 years past, a slump
in research and research methods has been experienced. Seeing the
need for a revival of research and research methods for local use,
and the possibility of a partnership with a richer country, the collaboration
project "Basic Physics for Technological Development in Uganda"
Between Makarere University, Uganda and the University of Bergen,
Norway was conceived, through the help of a four-year financing fund.
The aims of the project were: i) to
facilitate a technological development in the country, in a build-up
of possibilities for developing both education and research in the
basic sciences, ii)to take part in Competence and Capacity Building,
particularly on the experimental side, iii)to make the research
fields be selected by the Makarere staff, related to local needs,
iv)to rehabilitate and modernize the teaching laboratories including
the production of proper manuals for the practicals, v) to find
Norwegian supervisors for graduate students and Ph.D. students, giving
the possibility for the students to visit their advisors, to use a
good library, and to copy articles of use for their studies, degree
studies to be carried out as sandwich programs where the students
spend most of their time at the Makarere University, adding to the
local academic environment also during the study period, and vi)to
supply some of the essentials for infrastructure, such as copying
machines, computers and overhead projectors.
The above aims were followed up by: i)
having persons in charge of the practicals visit similar laboratories
in Norway, studying their methods and experiments, and starting the
adaptation to and development of the Makarere facilities, ii) finding
Norwegian researchers and Ugandan students for the different research
topics selected, and procuring suitable equipment, iii) planning for
the number of graduate students per year, and iv) planning an efficient
use of the funds available.
The research was carried in different
fields of the sciences, some of the fields focused on were the physics
on studies of physical and chemical parameters of products made from
clays in the abundant Uganda clay deposits, electronic devices, radiation
physics, solar energy.
Under the project, about 35 Ugandans
have completed M Sc studies in physics, chemistry and mathematics
and 20 more are on their way. Two Ugandans have completed their Ph
D studies and 8 more are on their way. A few Norwegians have also
taken up degrees in the same subjects within the project.
Local workshops and seminars have been
held for the academic and for the technical staff, with resource persons
form Norway and from the region. International conferences in chemistry
and in Mathematics and information seminars have been held for the
public in Kampala and in other cities. In addition to a few publications
in international journals, there have been international publications
in proceedings from the conferences mentioned above and at conferences
attended in the region.
As affirmed by the research fields covered
and the particular studies pursued, the project has worked out in
the way it was planned: to revive and develop ones research
and research methods and to use this in locally based research, and
not to feel compelled to copy the research trends in industrialized
countries. The departments have made a leap forward and have thus
made their initial contribution towards giving Makarere University
once more (as in the fifties) the status of "Harvard of Africa".
The about 25 Norwegian partners in the
project have found it a rewarding activity, meeting hardworking and
friendly persons who contributed to the research such that some of
the joint research projects still continue, financed from normal university
The apparently unique way of making the
Ugandan University itself decide on the priorities of the projects
wanted, and that the project would keep on for years, leading to continuous
contact with scientists from abroad was strongly appreciated. The
results of this project show that an expanded effort in enhancing
science education in poorer countries is extremely rewarding, and
hopefully, many others will follow suit.