SDG 10. Reduced inequalities

Astronomy enables people to dream big, regardless of their background

Kevin Govender, Director of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development -- International Astronomical Union (IAU), Capetown, South Africa

Many of our projects have dealt with schools, universities, members of the public, and families. A common thread has been to use astronomy as a gateway to give the public a greater understanding of science and technology. Another aspect of our work has been on the development of skills to use astronomy to stimulate skillsets. If everyone has access to skills then they will have access to more opportunities. Astronomy has driven the continent’s scientific renaissance.

Interview

Kevin Govender, Director of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development -- International Astronomical Union (IAU)
Photo: Sydelle Willow-Smith/IAU

My name is Kevin Govender, I have a physics background, and a communications science, education, and community development background. I am based in Capetown, South Africa, at the offices of Astronomy for Development, hosted by the South African Astronomical Observatory.

The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, and one of the largest in the world.
Photo: South African Astronomical Observatory

What we try to do in astronomy is to look at the stars and inspire everyone with a subject that touches on us all.

People all around the world, from all cultures regardless of background and socio-economic status, look up at the stars and marvel.

The community centre housing 36 computers provides local people with internet access and free daily workshops on computer literacy and networking.
Photo: Sydelle Willow-Smith/IAU

Humanity shares a common feature, curiosity and that curiosity seeks beyond the things that make us unequal. Astronomy taps into this curiosity. We try to inspire people from different parts of the world to engage with learning about the universe, but also engage with dreaming, dreaming of careers, careers in science and technology, careers outside of their usual environment. This enables people to dream big and to think of what can be done to address the challenges facing society today.

Many of our projects have dealt with schools, universities, members of the public, and families, and

a common thread has been to use astronomy as a gateway to give the public a greater understanding of science and technology.

Another aspect of our work has been skills development to use astronomy to stimulate skillsets. If everyone has access to skills then they will also have access to greater opportunities.

In recent times the South African government has invested heavily in astronomy through projects like the Southern African Large Telescope–an optical project–and the Karoo ray telescope or MeerKAT, which is a radio telescope project. These major investments have resulted in an incredible amount of attention being paid to the continent in terms of our contribution to science and the growth of human knowledge. The MeerKAT telescope has produced one of the clearest images of the centre of our Milky Way galaxy ever, anywhere in the world. And the fact that this image has come from South Africa, an African country, shows that the continent is ready to become a big player in global science. It has given a huge boost to our confidence on the continent and a huge boost to youth opportunities. The growth of radio astronomy, in particular, as well as astronomy in general across the continent, has been huge. We have recently seen the establishment of the African Astronomical Society and through it, we have seen the development of various activities across the continent in the fields of astronomy, optical astronomy, radio astronomy, and gama ray astronomy.

The Sutherland Community Development Centre is an initiative that transforms SAAO’s scientific and technological work into benefits for communities in the Sutherland region.





The community centre also functions as an after-school youth centre. And, at weekends, there are further workshops on internet banking, website development, as well as health-related sessions to raise awareness of issues such as HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and the danger of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
Photo: Sydelle Willow-Smith/IAU

Our focus is creating skills and developing the capacities of technicians to work in the global arenas of space and astronomy.

Astronomy has been a driving force in the continent’s scientific renaissance.

Gallery

One of SALT's missions is to lead the advancement and development of optical astronomy on the African continent, and inspire and educate new generations of scientists and engineers worldwide.
The community centre also functions as an after-school youth centre. And, at weekends, there are further workshops on internet banking, website development, as well as health-related sessions to raise awareness of issues such as HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and the danger of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
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The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, and one of the largest in the world.
The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, and one of the largest in the world. Photo: South African Astronomical Observatory
Large science projects like the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) have the power to transform society through education, inspiration and capacity-building.
Large science projects like the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) have the power to transform society through education, inspiration and capacity-building. Photo: South African Astronomical Observatory
One of SALT's missions is to lead the advancement and development of optical astronomy on the African continent, and inspire and educate new generations of scientists and engineers worldwide.
One of SALT’s missions is to lead the advancement and development of optical astronomy on the African continent, and inspire and educate new generations of scientists and engineers worldwide. Photo: South African Astronomical Observatory
The Sutherland Community Development Centre is an initiative that transforms SAAO’s scientific and technological work into benefits for communities in the Sutherland region. The community centre also functions as an after-school youth centre. And, at weekends, there are further workshops on internet banking, website development, as well as health-related sessions to raise awareness of issues such as HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and the danger of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
The Sutherland Community Development Centre is an initiative that transforms SAAO’s scientific and technological work into benefits for communities in the Sutherland region. The community centre also functions as an after-school youth centre. And, at weekends, there are further workshops on internet banking, website development, as well as health-related sessions to raise awareness of issues such as HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and the danger of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Photo: Sydelle Willow-Smith/IAU
The community centre also functions as an after-school youth centre. And, at weekends, there are further workshops on internet banking, website development, as well as health-related sessions to raise awareness of issues such as HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and the danger of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
The Sutherland Community Development Centre is an initiative that transforms SAAO’s scientific and technological work into benefits for communities in the Sutherland region. The community centre also functions as an after-school youth centre. And, at weekends, there are further workshops on internet banking, website development, as well as health-related sessions to raise awareness of issues such as HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and the danger of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Photo: Sydelle Willow-Smith/IAU
The community centre housing 36 computers provides local people with internet access and free daily workshops on computer literacy and networking.
The community centre housing 36 computers provides local people with internet access and free daily workshops on computer literacy and networking. Photo: Sydelle Willow-Smith/IAU
“I like the stars because they shine beautifully at night” Innes Photo: Sydelle Willow-Smith/IAU

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