The Department of Integrated Science Education, University of Education, Winneba (UEW), in collaboration with the American Chemical Society (ACS), has held a chemistry festival for four selected Junior High Schools (JHS) in the Effutu Municipality.
The festival, which took place on Thursday, 24th November, 2022, at the Methodist Rafiki Satellite Village in Gyahadze, a suburb of Winneba, was under the theme “Unmasking Chemistry in Indigenous Activities”.
In June 2022, three lecturers in the Faculty of Science Education (FSE), UEW, namely Dr. (Mrs.) Charity Esenam Anor, Mrs. Nelly Sakyi-Hagan (both of the Department of Integrated Science Education) and Dr. Boniface Yaayin (Department of Chemistry Education), responded to a call by the ACS for proposals to organise a chemistry festival. Their proposal was favourably considered and earned the grant; which the scholars see as an opportunity to fulfill in part, the university’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Grant winners from top L-R: Dr. (Mrs.) Charity Esenam Anor, Mrs. Nelly Sakyi-Hagan, Dr. Boniface Yaayin and Dr. Charles Kwesi Koomson, Ag. Head of Integrated Science Education
The goal of the festival is to engage the community in demystifying the role of chemistry in their daily lives through hands-on practical activities. As part of the celebration, 188 JHS students from Nsuekyir MA, Gyahadze MA, Methodist Rafiki and Gyangyanadze MA learned chemistry concepts in the production of akpeteshie (local gin), gari, palm oil and the use of wood ash lemon as indigenous agents for cleansing.
The leader of the project team, Dr. (Mrs.) Esenam Anor, in her welcome address, was confident that the participants would find all of the activities they would be participating in enjoyable.
The Chairperson of the event, Prof. Ruby Hanson, brought to the appreciation of participants the constant interaction of chemistry with humanity. “Right from the time you wake up, the clothe you sleep with is made of chemistry, the toothbrush you use, the soap you bathe with, are all elements of chemistry. Even the bucket you use to bathe is chemistry. This time we are going a step further to actually look at the science within our community.”
Prof. Ruby Hanson, former Dean of FSE
Prof. Ruby Hanson said returning to the community, its culture and the things that are done at home to learn the science there, as would be observed in gari making, oil preparation and akpeteshie distillation, constitutes indigenous science.
“From our communities, from our culture, from our tribal areas, there is so much science to learn, and if we can align with that and understand it, then when we come to the formal classroom, we won't have problems," she stressed.
The Vice-Dean of FSE, Dr. Arkoful Sam, who represented the Dean, Prof. Victus Samlafo, encouraged the students to try to link the hands-on activities to the little concepts such as condensation, evaporations and separation methods and principles in chemistry.
Invited guests who graced the event from top L-R: Dr. Arkoful Sam, Mrs. Deborah Afful, Very Rev. Dr. Isaac Nana Abekah and Mrs. Mabel Judith Micah
“We hope that these chemistry principles stay with you as you progress through the educational ladder and eventually join us in our faculty. It is our wish that you always ponder over the experiences got here. We believe and hope that as you move on, you’ll turn out to be good chemists,” he told the JHS students.
The Deputy Registrar, Division of Human Resource, Mrs. Deborah Afful, represented the Ag. Registrar, Mrs. Wilhelmina Tete-Mensah. In her remarks, she lauded the project team for the apt theme for the festival. She urged participants to listen attentively and observe whatever happened to understand chemistry concepts as a part of their daily lives.
“The reputation of chemistry as difficult and abstract is false. In my personal experience, I believe the notion stems solely from the difficulty of teaching the subject as a result of the teachers’ lack of preparation. There is an absence of appropriate instructional materials and outdated facilities for practical lessons. When the teaching-learning process is largely theoretical, we look at chemistry as abstract,” she said.
The Effutu Municipal Director of Education, Mrs. Mabel Judith Micah, on her part, appreciated the award winners for interpreting chemistry to the students to motivate them in pursuing chemistry-based programmes in the future. She advised the students to pay close attention to whatever would be happening. “I urge you all to take this chemistry festival seriously so that at the end of the day we will leave here with something new.”
A cross-section of JHS students from Nsuekyir MA, Gyahadze MA, Methodist Rafiki and Gyangyanadze MA schools
The Director of Methodist Rafiki Satellite Village, Very Rev. Dr. Isaac Nana Abekah, stressed the need to put into practice what is taught at schools.
“Today, we are helping everybody to understand that chemistry is not in the skies; chemistry is with us, and in the everyday activities that we do. We'll encounter something we studied in the classroom. There is nothing like classroom life and home life; whatever you study in the classroom ought to be practicalised in your daily activities,” he asserted.
The Ag. Head, Integrated Science Education, Dr. Charles Kwesi Koomson, was optimistic that the festival would help produce great scientists, chemists and biologists out of the pupils to help develop the country.
Sections of the hands-on activities the students engaged themselves in from top L-R: gari making, oil preparation, a test for starch, protein and oil, and akpeteshie distillation
Dignitaries who graced the ceremony in a pose with selected participants