The Department of Chemistry of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), in partnership with the Ashanti Region Chapter of the Ghana Chemical Society (GCS), the Ghana Students Chemical Society (GSCS) and the Department of Applied Chemistry, School of Chemical and Biochemical Sciences, C. K. Tedam University of Technology and Applied Sciences (CKT-UTAS) had reached out to students from all 18 junior high schools in the Bolga East District of the Upper East Region. The project, under the theme “Building Our Nation through Diversity and Inclusion in Science, Technology and Chemical Education (BONDISTANCE)”, simply referred to as “The DISTANCE Project”, was financially sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry, UK and College of Science, KNUST. The three-day Diversity and Inclusion in the Chemical Sciences programme (31st of October to 2nd November 2023) aimed at making chemistry learning among basic school children fun, relating chemistry concepts to everyday events and being enthused about using such knowledge in solving societal issues in the future.
The programme, which took place at Gambibgo Community Day Senior High School, was attended by a number of dignitaries, including the District Director of Education (Mr. George Asira), a representative for the Bolga East District Chief Executive (Mr. Fidelis Amobire), the chief of Gambibgo Traditional Area (Naba Sayeed Akolmolga Anon-Egra Sadik), a representative for the member of parliament for Bolga East Constituency (Mr. Azuri Isaac Ayelatoe), the assembly member for Zuarungu North Electoral Area (Mr. Clement Atakimah). Other attendees are the local representative for the RSC (Prof. Johannes A.M. Awudza), Ghana Chemical Society representatives for Ashanti Region Chapter (Dr. Michael B. Mensah, secretary; Dr. Caroline R. Kwawu, treasurer; and Dr. Michael K. Laryea).
The three-day event was full of practical chemistry activities, which the programme coordinator, Dr. Gershon Amenuvor, nicknamed “Chemistry on the Field”. These include acid-base titration (neutralisation reaction), generation of hydrogen gas from dilute HCl and magnesium metal and testing for the hydrogen gas, which gives a “pop” sound in the presence of a flame, separation of mixtures, classification of solutions into acidic, neutral and basic using pH measurement with digital pH metre and litmus paper test and building compounds using molecular model kits. In addition to the fantastic practical activities, the learners were also introduced to how to tackle community-based problems through the application of chemistry. A typical example is tasking the children to analyse water samples obtained from various sources in their communities by determining the pH and giving advice on the quality of the water for drinking based on the WHO pH limit. Dr. Michael Baah Mensah was so amazed by the learners' performance as he proclaimed to the chief and the District Director of Education “I present to you young chemists who would address challenges that affect your community”.
The District Director of Education, Mr. Asira, was thankful to the team and highlighted the significance of education and how the community is open to anything related to learning because they recognize its value for their children. “We have created an environment where children can explore and understand the impact of chemistry in their lives and the world around us”. Using the adage "catch them young", Mr. Asira emphasised the importance of introducing chemistry early in the lives of the learners rather than waiting until they grow up. After touring the 17 chemistry practical setups, he expressed confidence that the learners would have developed strong preferences for areas they'd like to explore further by the end of the three-day programme. To engage them further, Mr. Asira assigned the learners the task of discovering practical uses of chemistry to address the SDGs.
Naba Sayeed Akolmolga Anon-Egra Sadi (Chief of the Gambibgo Traditional Area), who attended the event with his entourage, delivered a speech emphasising the importance of science and pledged his commitment to prioritise education in his community through his traditional authority. He also expressed his profound gratitude to the team for being thoughtful of his community. As part of his appreciation, the chief presented a royal fugu to the team and encouraged them to remember his community in terms of more educational projects.