13-09-201213-09-2012 - Botswana Government rolls out astronomy scholarships

Principal research officer at the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology (MIST), Samuel Bok says the Square Kilometre Array Project (SKA), through the government of Botswana, is offering postgraduate scholarships in the field of astronomy to Botswana citizens.

Following her recent bid to host the biggest science project in the world, South Africa has urged stakeholder countries to introduce astrology as a programme in their universities and has offered  her institutions for interested post-graduate candidates to study astronomy.

"Last year four candidates from Botswana were sponsored by the project to undertake studies in the fields of radio astronomy and engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal," Bok said.He said international project donors, mainly Britain, China, Netherlands and the USA, are funding the scholarships. He said the initiative strives to introduce astronomy as a fully-fledged programme at the University of Botswana, so as to have locals trained by fellow Batswana.

"The idea is to have Batswana who are trained in the field so that when the telescope project is complete, they can be the ones working there not foreigners," he said.Bok said MIST has approached the Ministry of Education and Skills Development to source funding for additional qualifying candidates. UB has started offering astronomy as a single semester course thanks to the assistance of visiting professors from the University of South Africa.

"At the moment the SKA scholarship sends candidates to University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban University of Technology, University of Cape Town, and the University of Pretoria being the most prominent one," Bok said.

Botswana is among southern African countries that will host the proposed gigantic radio telescope that will hopefully shed light on the origin of the universe and detect weak signals that could indicate the presence of extraterrestrial life.

When completed in 2024, the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will be made up of 3,000 dishes stretching over 3,000 km, from the Karoo site in the Northern Cape region of South Africa and in neighbouring African countries - Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Madagasgar, Mauritius, Kenya, and Ghana. The  $3.1 billion telescope, which has been described as "the biggest science project in the world", has been conceptualised since 1991, and is expected to begin construction in 2016.



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