i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Young South African Scientist Unraveling the Environment

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 19, 2009

Have you ever wondered how to accurately predict when it would rain and how much rain to expect? Have you ever thought that mathematics and engineering were exclusively male domains? Have you ever wondered if Africa could solve its own problems and if the upcoming generation of Africans could take the continent into the promised land? There is a ray of hope shining from the far South.

Born into a humble background, this whiz kid has risen beyond the temporal challenges of her immediate environment and through hard work and commitment has demonstrated a wide spectrum of talent and excellence. Her name is Sibusisiwe Audrey Khuluse. She is a scientist working on statistical modelling of rainfall events in the Western Cape of South Africa. She also conducts research into environmental risk assessment for extreme events. She uses statistical modelling relying on in-situ environmental data to project and assess the potential likelihood and severity of environmental events. This involves a lot of data from different sources but through computing and statistical techniques the modelling can serve to help solve questions in engineering, business, economics, health and other aspects of society. Space-based data gotten from remote environmental monitoring satellites are equally reliable sources of data for geo-statistical modelling.

Recognition for her work has come from different quarters. Sibu, as she is better known, graduated from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2007 with a honours degree in Mathematical Statistics. She is studying for a Masters in Mathematical Statistics at the University of Witwatersrand where her research work is on extreme value modelling. She is also a research statistician at the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)– Built Environment, where she works with the Statistical Modelling and Analysis Research Group. She is a recipient of a Tata Africa Scholarship to complete her Masters. This award is given to women working in areas of study that are not typically considered female domains. She has also been awarded the prestigious Mandela Rhodes Havard South Africa Fellowship. She will spend a year at Harvard from the second half of 2010. She intends to use that period to further her academic and research pursuits, while strengthening research collaborations. It will also help her to choose a suitable topic for her future PhD studies. A highly motivated and service-minded individual, Sibu represents the blend of intelligence, resourcefulness and commitment to pursuing innovative ideas, that is gradually renewing the ethos of the continent. This change is the hope for a responsible, progressive and productive future for Africa.

Her example as a high flyer, should be encouraged by governments and financially endowed individuals. The continent is laden with potential and its future, especially in the fields of science and technology, would be enhanced by greater efforts in supporting the educational pursuits of young African women and men. Research-minded individuals should be encouraged to take up opportunities across the globe. This would also help to grow research networks while building local capacity. Without a doubt, Africa’s environment is rich in resources and potential, yet it is also not immune to hazards and extreme events. It is necessary to harness the potential of technologies across the spectrum of innovation to develop our resources and empower Africans to mitigate and be prepared against disasters.

Investment in education, research and capacity building efforts all determine the seriousness, and the potential for progress and development for any system. This crucial aspect of organisational growth and socio-economic development is the bedrock for any knowledge-driven and resource efficient society. The key to development is not more money or greater funding but the optimum and efficient use of existing resources. Knowledge must thus be valued and given its rightful place as the pivot around which all other development efforts are driven. This guides the efficient use of resources; establishes authenticity, merit and genuine need as drivers of resource distribution and uptake; and sidelines corrupt, selfish and retrogressive models of governance, civil responsibility and societal development.

You can learn more about Sibu here and here.

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