According to Wikipedia, there are over 500 science and technology museums and centres in the world. There are only two in the whole of Africa and none in Nigeria. The two museums located in Africa are MTN Sciencentre, Cape Town, South Africa, started by fund donated by MTN Foundation in 1998. The other is Planetarium Science Centre in Egypt, inaugurated in 2002.
What is a Science and Technology Museum or Centre?
According wikipedia, a science museum is a museum devoted primarily to science. Older science museums tended to concentrate on static displays of objects related to natural history, sciences and industrial machinery, etc. Modern trends in modern times have broadened the range of subject matter and introduced many interactive exhibits. Many if not most modern science museums — which increasingly refer to themselves as “science centres” or “discovery centre” — also emphasise technology, and are therefore also technology museums.
The mission statements of science centres and modern museums vary, but they are united in being places that make science accessible and encourage the excitement of discovery. They are an integral and dynamic part of the learning environment, promoting exploration from the first discovery to today’s cutting-edge research. However, the negative impacts of science and technology, or the uneven development of its various disciplines, may or may not be explored by some organizations.
Is Bad Government Responsible for Few or No Science and Technology Museums or Centres in Nigeria and Other African Countries?
Let us use Nigeria as a case study. Most people will agree that Nigerians do not understand the importance of science and technology in human and capital development, and nation building. We look at science and technology passively. We see science as a white man’s thing. We see ourselves not as inventors, scientists or technological innovators but only as the last consumer of the products of science and technology.
The Minister of Science and Technology of Nigeria, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu once lamented about this attitude toward science and technology. That was not the first time we have heard government officials making such lamenting statements, which are mere political jingles and lip services.
On January 17, 2013, a Nigerian Newspaper published that, the then Minister of Science and Technology, 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 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.”
“We thank God this desire has materialised. We have the Science and Technology Park and the museum project. At least we have something on ground now,” she added.
The government after saying all these went ahead to propose a N30.85 bill budget for science and technology in the year that followed which was only 0.7% of the total 2014 budget proposal cost of 4.495 trillion naira.
In the budget, a little amount of N30 mill was allocated for the development and equipping of national science and technology museum, and categorised as a new project. The government allocated N80 mill for the development of science and technology parks (S & T Parks) which was also categorised as a new project.
This is how serious Nigeria 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. Even if the government did put in N30mill yearly from 2013 to 2015 (3yrs) the total would still not be reasonable.
Last month, speaking at a meeting with the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Simon Shercliff, the 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 minister that the science museum project is still at the planning stage.
It is the Social Responsibility of Non-Governmental Organisations in Africa to Support Science and Technology
Most science and technology museums and centers where not started by government, many were started by individuals, schools, foundations and corporate bodies. We can replicate this system in Africa too. Individuals need to come together to form the synergy required to talk both governmental and non-governmental organisations into supporting and funding science programmes and projects. Africa needs science lovers and advocates who can canvass and lobby for more attention and funds for science and technology programmes and projects.