The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has lamented the global decline in interest and enrolment in basic sciences across its member-countries especially in Africa where the situation has become worse than any other continent.
This was disclosed by UNESCO’s Director and Executive Secretary, International Basic Sciences Programme, Professor Maciej J. Nalecz, who noted that the organisation is concerned about the global level of decline in science and technology despite what it sees as the primary role of science in the production of knowledge that improves conditions of living, sustainable development and, in general, the advancement of civilization.
Speaking on Biotechnology Prospects and Challenges for Africa at the Inaugural Conference of the International Centre for Biotechnology (UNESCO Category II), University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Nalcez said the main challenge for science and technology at a global level is the declining interest and enrolment of young people into science, mathematics and engineering faculties, especially women, at a time when there is an increasing need for them.
According to Nalcez, statistics show that Africa’s contributions to research and development (R&D) is less than 1 per cent of global investment in R&D while it generates a mere 1.5 per cent of total scientific publications, a situation grossly termed inadequate.
He blamed the declining interest in enrolment of youngsters into sciences on a diminishing trust in science by the general public resulting from a number of reasons among which are many unfulfilled promises such as a cure for cancer, a solution to energy crisis, a healthy economic future, among others.
Warning that Africa stands the risk of stunted growth if she doesn’t arrest the current slide by putting in place adequate measures, Nalcez said “failure to meet this challenge will result in insufficient numbers of scientists, continued brain drain, skills shortages and ongoing impact on development, especially for developing and least-developed countries.”
To reverse this trend, he suggested that innovative means be developed to allow young people appreciate the value, creativity, challenges and excitement of science.
The Biotechnology Conference marked the official commencement of the International Centre for Biotechnology, UNESCO Category 2, UNN as a UNESCO Centre following the signing of the MOU between Nigeria and UNESCO in October 2012.
The UNN Centre was established to provide state-of-the-art laboratory facilities to enhance and develop research for food security, develop tropical disease research initiatives, provide training for postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows and develop capacity for biotechnology policy and practice.
Source - Vanguard News