The West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) has completed for the second year running an outreach tour as part of its public engagement activities to Senior High Schools (SHS).
The programme is facilitated by the Centre’s Graduate Interns under the Wellcome Trust Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science (DELTAS) Africa initiative.
It provides a platform for engagement mainly young Science students in SHS in the country about careers in Science and study options beyond senior high school level.
The outreach programme was organised in furtherance of WACCBIP’s goal of promoting science education, awareness and appreciation among students in sub-Saharan Africa.
Graduate Interns engaged students on study & career options in the Sciences, had interactive learning sessions, and also led students at each school.
A team of 16 Graduate Interns led by three WACCBIP research fellows visited Tamale Girls SHS, Islamic Science SHS and St. Charles Minor Seminary SHS, in the Northern Region.
In the Upper East Region, they visited Notre Dame Minor Seminary SHS and Our Lady of Lourdes Girls SHS.
The team led students in each school in interactive learning sessions and facilitated practical sessions in microscopy, DNA extraction, small and large volume pipetting, and RDT testing. In all, over 1500 Senior High students were engaged.
The team also made donations of notepads and pens, which were provided by Inqaba Biotec West Africa, and boxes of books provided by the Balme Library of the University of Ghana.
Headmistress of Tamale Girls’ SHS, Nasita Abubakar welcomed the team and thanked WACCBIP for having been selected to be part of the tour.
She commended WACCBIP for its commitment to promoting Science education among SHS students.
“Our interest is to see our students go higher especially in the field of Science and to know that there are other opportunities in Science they can explore,” Hajia Abubakar said.
“I am also encouraged that WACCBIP is continually contributing in forming and shaping our students in the Sciences. I hope to see some of our students in your fields of research in the years to come.”
Speaking to a gathering of teachers and students at the school, Miss Kyerewaa Akuamoah Boateng, the Public Engagement Officer for WACCBIP, explained that the outreach tour was to promote the study of Science and promote greater understanding of WACCBIP research activities into infectious diseases, and its value to the Ghanaian society.
“Our aim is to bring our research activities to the doorsteps of students and to make them feel and understand what we do as research scientists in the laboratories. Students will also get to understand some basic devices and ideas they can apply to solve problems around them,” Miss Boateng said.
“This will enable them to appreciate the various contributions scientists have made in eradicating diseases and to know the diverse fields they can choose from.”
The Graduate Interns then took turns to give short presentations on the various topics, some touching on historical aspects of Science, scientific methods and approaches, and careers in Science in all the schools visited.
They also presented short talks on important discoveries that have been made in diagnosing and eradicating malaria, including the Rapid Diagnosis Test (RDT).
These were followed by presentations on WACCBIP, its research facilities, and steps involved in applying to the University.
To explain to students the lifecycle of the malaria parasite at the Islamic SHS, Graduate Interns, Deladem Mensah and Jonathan Suurbar, underlined the reasons why the parasites in the human blood can be life-threatening.
They highlighted that even though the parasite multiplies in the liver of a host before destroying the red blood cells after a bite, it can be treated and controlled with early diagnosis especially with a Rapid Diagnosis Test (RDT).
In their presentation, they affirmed WACCBIP’s commitment to eradicating malaria in sub-Saharan Africa and the success so far.
“The malaria parasite gets into your liver after a bite because there is less immune pressure in the liver. The parasite then stays in the liver, multiplies and gets into your blood vessels. This is where the symptoms of malaria show.”
Jonathan Suurbar said, “at WACCBIP, the research we conduct is to find a vaccine for malaria, to bring an end to the nuisance that malaria causes.”
Crowning the programme, students were divided into groups, under the supervision of Graduate Interns.
This gave them the opportunity to analyse and discuss the diagnosis of malaria infection by detecting specific malaria antigens in a person’s blood.
The students were also taught how to extract their DNA, pipette, conduct small volume measurement, and study molecular models. Students appreciated this information and for the first time visualized most of the microorganisms they had heard of.
Yakubu Aisha, a student from Our Lady of Lourdes Girls’ SHS was enthused being her first time of viewing the malaria parasites and other viruses in a microscope, she was happy to explore further knowledge in Science.
“I have learnt a lot today about Science. I have seen red blood cells and viruses under the microscope, and how to pipette without using the mouth,” she said.
“I observed and understood all the activities the researchers took us through, and I believe I can be a Science researcher one day.”