Inaugural RCMRD Space Challenge Held in Uganda

The RCMRD through the SERVIR-ESA project organized the maiden RCMRD Uganda Space Challenge held at Wanyange Girls School in Jinja, Uganda.

This was held as a way of giving back to society when SERVIR E&SA introduced an activity dubbed RCMRD Space Challenge targeting primary and secondary schools to enlighten and equip children in Kenya and RCMRD member States on some of the causes and drivers of climate change.

The challenge has been held twice in Kenya (July 2017 and July 2018). RCMRD intends to replicate the challenge across the member States.

Contestants were drawn from Busoga College Mwiri, Iganga Secondary School and Wanyange Girls School. Over 200 students attended. Each school nominated 20 students who were trained and actively participated in the contest.

The RCMRD space challenge is meant to equip students from high schools in Uganda and other RCMRD member States with necessary skills related to climate change and its drivers. The challenge helps in building resilience to climate change among the youthful generation in the society and also influences behavior change in regards to climate related issues.

This platform also encourages exchange of climatic data and partnerships between likeminded institutions like GLOBE and TAHMO for sustainability purposes. The Uganda Space Challenge leveraged on a partnership between RCMRD, TAHMO, GLOBE Program [Uganda] an Environmental Education program which provides students with practical skills in environmental study, data collection and analysis), Makerere University, Akorion, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, and the Ministry of Education and Sports Uganda.

With a long term goal of enriching climate data, this program helps install weather stations in various primary and secondary schools envisaged to participate in the challenge. The challenge is aimed at inspiring children to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM). The challenge was in three parts: orientation for teachers that took place earlier in the year, providing information on how weather changes in Wanyange girls’ school and Ndejje Secondary School is affecting crop growing in the two schools and the surrounding areas. The secondary data used was obtained from the TAHMO weather stations installed at Wanyange Girls School and at Ndejje Secondary School for a period of two years (2016-2017).

The results showed variations in the trend of weather elements. The students were then graded according to the reports submitted (60%) and oral presentations they made (40%).

Iganga Secondary School emerged winners of the 2018 RCMRD Uganda Space Challenge 2018 with Wanyange Girls School taking position 2 and Busoga College Mwiri were placed in position 3.

Space Challenge 2018 1st Runners Up

Mr. Victor Egwal the Patron of the Wildlife /Environmental Club at Wanyange Girls School, the host of the 2018 Uganda Challenge had this to say, “It is a special day for us to participate in the Uganda Space Challenge 2018.

He said there were 10 schools represented at the teachers orientation but only six schools proceeded to the implementation and three schools satisfied the requirements of the challenge.

In her remarks, Wanyange Girls head teacher Basekanakyo Deborah congratulated RCMRD for conceiving the idea of a competition for schools in and in particular that emphasizes the important contributions of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the wellbeing of countries in Africa and the world.

She advised that more schools should be allowed to participate and it should be held at lower administrative zones, at the national, regional and even global field so students would best learn from each other.

The headmistress said, “As a school we enjoyed hosting you and it is also the first time we were hosting the space challenge. “I look forward to future collaborations. We have a secondary school head teachers association and I will mobilise and bring more schools on board. We can cohost the competitions and activities here and that will allow us bring in more people to conserve our environments in the member states in the region.

Victor Egwal the patron of the Wildlife/Environmental Club in Wanyange noted, “This is a new concept and we took time to understand it and impart the same to our students. It is a special day for us as we participate in this first ever event. We look forward to more and bigger challenges. “

Speaking about the challenge, Kampi Ruth, the Patron of Iganga Secondary School Uganda Space Challenge Club and also the Head of Department for Geography thanked the organizers as well as partners for initiating the challenge.

She said with this challenge, the students were able to sensitize communities as well as identify factors contributing to climate change and ways of dealing with the challenges. She appealed for inclusion of more schools so it can be a real challenge with several schools participating and learning from each other.

“The more, the merrier. We appeal for inclusion of more schools and we would like to have a challenge covering all the RCMRD member States.

Mwaami Watolya Latifu a Senior 1 student at Busoga College Mwiri who dreams of becoming an astronaut said his dreams were closer to realization after interacting with other students in the RCMRD Space challenge. “What has always been my dream is to become an astronaut. In school I was learning about the solar system and I asked how I could go “there”. Today, I am glad that RCMRD and the partners’ organizations including NASA are making it a reality. For me, it was settled: I needed to become an astronaut.

Conversely, Head Prefect Namugere Precious Mary in Senior 5 at Wanyange Girls School said she had struggled to understand why her school mates would burn the mid night oil as they prepared for the space challenge. She recalls a colleague telling her that they were monitoring freshwater biodiversity in the Lake Victoria Basin, and how climate change, pollution from industrial and agricultural sources, over-harvesting and land clearance for agriculture had led to the decline of some species of fish.

“I love eating fish. And I got interested because I do not want to wake up one day and find that my favorite fish is no more,” the Arts student opined. The Lake Victoria Basin is incredibly rich in unique species found nowhere else on earth, yet its biodiversity is being decimated.

Namugaya Sylvia a Senior 2 student at Iganga Secondary and part of the 20 students who took part in the challenge said after the teachers were oriented in Kampala, their patron introduced the Space Challenge Club in the school.

Wanyange Girls Secondary School a girls boarding school in Jinja District Mafubira Sub county, JINJA District of Uganda.

The Church Missionary Society (CMS) founded school started way back in the mid-1950s as a Junior Girls School covering junior One to three levels.

Iganga High School is one of the best performing schools in the Eastern Region of Uganda. They offer both Arts and Sciences at both ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level.

Busoga College Mwiri, often known simply as ‘Mwiri’, is a boarding school in Jinja District. Wanyange Girls School is an entirely boarding secondary school located in Jinja district on the Nyange hill overlooking Lake Victoria at the Southern end.