There are over 490 science museums and centres in the world. There are only four in the whole of Africa and none in Nigeria – the most populous country in continent. A science museum is a museum devoted primarily to science with displays of objects related to natural history, sciences and industrial machinery, etc. Trends in modern times have broadened the range of subject matter and introduced many interactive exhibits and many if not most modern science museums increasingly refer to themselves as “science centres” and emphasises technology, and are therefore also ” science and technology museums” or “Science and Technology Centre”.
Despite the variation in models, science museums encourage the excitement of discovery and make science accessible to the public. They have become integral and dynamic part of the learning environment, promoting exploration from the first discovery to today’s cutting-edge research
The four science museums and centres in Africa are the MTN Sciencentre, Cape Town, South Africa; the Planetarium Science Centre in Egypt; Ghana Science Project, Accra; and Addis Ababa Science Museum, Ethiopia.
The Nigerian Case
The Nigerian Federal Government have on several occasions emphasized the importance of science and technology in human, capital development and nation building, yet they neglect the sector. Severally the government has announced plans to established science museums in the country and years after non has been built.
The Minister of Science and Technology in the current President Buhari ‘s administration, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu once lamented about this attitude toward science and technology. This was not the first time a government official has made such lamentation, which time as shown are mere political jingles and lip services.
On January 17, 2013, a Nigerian Newspaper published that, the then Minister of Science and Technology under the past government of President Jonathan, Prof. Ita Okon Bassey Ewa during a facility tour of Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO) Gwagwalada, Federal Capital Territory, said,
“I believe SHESTCO is well-positioned, well-placed for this time of the century. You will recall that they have ordained the score line and engaged the environment. The entire infrastructure in the master plan of Abuja will hang on completely to this area. We will have our own park just as the director said. We will try to develop a park that is compatible with the tenets of scientific pool by which all generations and modern technologies are known for.”
The then permanent secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Mrs. Rabi Jimeta, who was with the minister added,
“This year (2013) the ministry is preparing to ensure that something is on ground as far as its purposes are concerned, because what we have on ground is that, over the years, it has been planning a feasibility study and what have you. But this time around we say enough of the planning, designing and paper work.”
“We want to see something on ground that could be released as a reason to invite international donors, agencies and other collaborators to make sure that at the end of the day we have something that we can show the world that Nigeria is achieving something in the areas of science and technology.” she added.
That government after saying all these went ahead to propose a N30.85 billion (193 million USD at then exchange rate) budget for science and technology in the year that followed which was only 0.7% of the total 2014 budget proposal.
In the budget, a little amount of N30 million (187,500 USD) was allocated for the development and equipping of national science and technology museum, and categorised as a new project. The government allocated N80 million (500,000 USD) for the development of science and technology parks which was also categorised as a new project.
This is how serious Nigerian government has been towards science and technology. The government cannot be more serious about science and technology than the fund they are willing to spend on the sector. Last month, (March, 2016) speaking at a meeting with the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Simon Shercliff, the current Minister of Science and Technology of Nigeria announced that the Federal Government is planning to launch the nation’s first Science and Technology Museum to boost youth interest in the sector.
This is the third year since the last government said, “Enough of the planning, designing and paper work” that the ministry of science and technology will start building a science and technology museum and thus made little fund available. It is shocking, to hear from the present minister that the science museum project is still at the planning stage. Despite the new show of interest of the present government, it is still unlikely that the government will build a science museum anytime soon,
Role of Non-Governmental Organisations
Many science museums, and science and technology centers were not started or are not funded by governments but by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The MTN Sciencentre in Cape Town was started with funds donated by a telecommunication company – MTN – in 1998, through their foundation. The Addis Ababa Science Museum was started and is run by an STEM Synergy – an NGO. The Ghana Science Project in Accra is was established with help of donors from the United States.
This type of funding and support can be replicated in Nigeria and other African countries. There is need for more science advocacy in the continent, a need for organisations who lobby for more attention and funds for science education programmes and projects in African countries. Nigerians with interest in Science and Technology need to come together to form a common front to persuade both governmental and non-governmental organisations into supporting and funding science science museums and centres in the country.