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ANU launches training program for scientists from eight African countries

Science communicators from eight African countries will spend the next six weeks at the Australian National University learning to create or further develop science centres in their home nations.

The ANU and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-sponsored program aims to make science interactive, accessible and fun for young Africans by helping the science leaders establish institutions like Questacon.

Science Circus Africa project officer Graham Walker said there was an opportunity for more science centres in Africa, where only a handful exist.

"The teaching of science in a lot of Africa - and a lot of the world, including Australia - requires on a lot of rote learning and memorisation, and it really takes the soul out of science, because science is a living thing, it's a way of understanding the world, so what we try to do in our programs is bring it to life," he said.

"A really critical part of getting the results that we're after is finding those local organisations who are on the same mission and it's those organisations we partner with and that we've brought over here.

"For most of the people over here we've run science outreach projects in their countries."

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Representatives from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Mauritius and Malawi will attend the course.

Science Circus Africa is an ANU initiative that has reached more than 68,000 people across seven countries and trained more than 350 staff.

Dr Walker has travelled to the continent to promote science since 2003 and said the focus was on using common items - "things that you can find in a supermarket in Malawi or a hardware store in Zambia" - to make science interesting.

"We always try to use common items because that's something that the kids can relate to but it's also something that's accessible for teachers and accessible for the partner organisations we work with, so we'll run workshops for teachers over there showing them that you don't need test tubes and fancy lab equipment to do practical engaging science, you can do it with things like drinking straws and vinegar and baking soda and stuff like that," Dr Walker said.

"It makes science practical, it makes it hands-on and we try to link it to everyday life, whether it's the items we're using or having a greater understanding of the science in everyday life."