i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Educational initiatives from space

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 10, 2007

“There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight”
“But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society.”
-Vikram Sarabhai, father of the Indian space program

In 2004 the Indian space research organization (ISRO) launched a communications satellite designated for the sole purpose of providing communications services for educational purposes. EDUSAT as the satellite was called was built in India and launched using locally developed launch technology.
A few months before the launch of the EDUSAT satellite ISRO organized a conference for educationists and administrators in the educational sector on the capabilities of the satellite and how it could serve the educational institutions. The conference laid out the background for the program.
In their words, “The pivotal role of education as an instrument of social change by altering the human perspective and transforming the traditional mindset of society is well recognised. The universalisation of education has become the top priority, especially for the developing countries. But the extension of quality education to remote and rural regions becomes a Herculean task for a large country like India with multi-lingual and multi-cultural population separated by vast geographical distances and in many instances, inaccessible terrain. Since independence, India has seen substantial increase in the number of educational institutions at primary, secondary and higher levels as well as the student enrolment. But the lack of adequate rural educational infrastructure and non-availability of good teachers in sufficient numbers adversely affect the efforts made in education.
Satellites can establish the connectivity between urban educational institutions with adequate infrastructure imparting quality education and the large number of rural and semi-urban educational institutions that lack the necessary infrastructure. Besides supporting formal education, a satellite system can facilitate the dissemination of knowledge to the rural and remote population about important aspects like health, hygiene and personality development and allow professionals to update their knowledge base as well. Thus, in spite of limited trained and skilled teachers, the aspirations of the growing student population at all levels can be met through the concept of tele-education….. EDUSAT is the first exclusive satellite for serving the educational sector. It is specially configured to meet the growing demand for an interactive satellite-based distance education system for the country through audio-visual medium, employing Direct to Home (DTH) quality broadcast”. A similar program in Mexico utilizes satellite technology to beam educational programs to 35,000 set top boxes in Mexico and even other parts of the continent.
This utilization of satellite technology in enhancing educational activity is critical in overcoming the challenge of providing good quality education for all, especially rural and semi-urban dwellers. This would help to bridge the wide literacy gap between Africa and the educationally advanced nations. It would also help to conserve the quality of the educational material while assisting in broadening the horizons of the budding minds of our children and youth. Our governments should be encouraged to focus their attention on measures like this that would phenomenally impact socio-economic development.

One Response to “Educational initiatives from space”

  1. Simon Adebola said

    Our challenge is to conserve the heritage of good quality education and sustain its impact by continually applying the principles of excellence and equal access for all. Space science and technology is instrumental in implementing these goals. Any serious-minded government should pursue these goals through investment and collaboration. Benjamin Franklin said, “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

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