African maths institute to open campus in Tanzania
As part of its AIMS Next Einstein Initiative, which plans to establish 15 AIMS centres across Africa by 2021, it also has an affiliate programme at the African University of Science and Technology in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
According to a Tanzanian government official, the new institute will teach mathematics and science subjects across various education levels.
The AIMS network of quality maths education and research institutes, headquartered in Cape Town, was established in 2003 as a partnership between universities in Africa and abroad including Cambridge and Oxford in Britain, Paris Sud XI in France, and the universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch and the Western Cape in South Africa.
According to a communiqué sent to University World News by the Tanzanian government’s director of presidential communication, Salva Rweyemamu, the pledge to establish an AIMS campus was given to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete by the founder and head of AIMS, Professor Neil Turok.
Turok, who is also executive director of Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada, made the promise when he met Kikwete at Canada’s University of Guelph, where the Tanzanian president was receiving an honorary doctorate of laws.
The South African-born professor is the son of Ben Turok, an anti-apartheid activist and MP, who lived in Tanzania as a child. Salva Rweyemamu said Neil Turok had asked the Tanzanian president to donate a building for the AIMS campus, and Kikwete had agreed.
Turok had stressed to Kikwete the need for African countries to strengthen maths and science training, to support the advance of science and technology on the continent and underpin development.
“He said science and technology are powerful forces for progress in the world we are living in,” Rweyemamu told University World News. “For Africa to benefit fully from these forces, it must build a strong indigenous capacity in both.”
According to the communication, AIMS had previously held talks with the University of Dar es Salaam about partnering to open a campus in the Silver Sands area of the city. But the discussions had not yielded results.
Once established, AIMS would help Tanzania to increase the number of maths and science students in universities, in a country that has a dire shortage of scientists. Tanzania also lags behind its East African neighbours in enrolment, with only 65,000 students admitted to public and private universities this year. The country aims to admit 300,000 students by 2015.
Tanzania already has the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, or NM-AIST, located in the capital Arusha. NM-AIST was built in 2011 as an initiative to increase postgraduate training and research.
The process of establishing NM-AIST was initiated by the Tanzanian government and regional bodies such as the African Union, as well as academic institutions and development partners. It only admits postgraduate students, and targets East African students.
Recently, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Communication, Science and Technology January Makamba said that by 2015-16, the country intended to have around 500 masters and PhD students doing research in hard sciences at the Nelson Mandela institute.
“I felt proud of our work as a country as I went around the NM-AIST campus and talked to professors and students about their research…we are on the right course,” he said.
The deputy minister added that young Tanzanians he had spoken to were “doing amazing research relevant to our challenges”, putting the country on track to develop world-class science and technology research.
Makamba said the government had started to develop evidence-based policy, placing much emphasis on scientific research to hasten development.
The establishment of NM-AIST had boosted Arusha’s ambitions to be a regional centre for science and research, as well as a diplomatic centre for East Africa – it is the headquarters of the East African Community – and Tanzania’s tourism hub, located as it is in the foothills of Mount Meru, near the Great Rift Valley and close to famous reserves such as the Serengeti.