Mathematics; a Dream Killer of Aspiring Female Scientists – Ghana’s First Female Nuclear Engineer Opens up

Ghana’s first female Nuclear Engineer Ekua Mensima has blamed Mathematics as being a threat to the dreams of aspiring young female scientists in Ghana.

The 32 year old award winning scientist told GAEC Press in an interview  that, though Mathematics is “an easy to understand” subject  it not been fairly handled in schools with respect to delivery.

Ekua, who is currently with the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) at the Nuclear Safety Department, holds a Mater Degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Ghana Graduate School of Nuclear and Allied Science. (GSNAS)

According to her, students are given an extremely weak foundation in mathematics right from pre-school to senior high school level hence resulting in low interest in science especially among female students.

She expressed worry at the fact that, many are still being discouraged from perusing science with an erroneous perception that mathematics is difficult. This she said tends to drive more females away from becoming scientists.

Presenting her case on other challenges, she mentioned gender inequality as another thought-provoking factor.” “A situation where women are seen as custodians of the kitchen is highly demotivating. Most women are faced with inferiority complex situations and this causes them to drop science for fear of their future. “

“Being the only female students in my class, I was not given a fair treatment by one of my lecturers who thought i don’t belong to the science class and as a result, i mostly cry to express my pain.  She revealed.

Ekua hinted that, perusing science in Ghana’s University is relatively expensive hence depriving most brilliant but needy female students the opportunity to further. She was thankful to her single parent mother who supported her financially and encouraged her when she almost gave up.

Madam Mensima who is currently a mother of two disclosed that, family responsibility also has a way of pushing women away from choosing science. Using her two children as point of reference, she believes that, she could have advanced beyond her current position if not for the necessary breaks.  She acknowledged the support of her husband who has encouraging her to pursue her PHD.

She believes that, women in science play a one hundred and five percent (105%) role than men and must be given the needed push to realize their dreams.  “Women are assets on every field and must be encouraged to pursue science. I am confident that, women in science have a bright future since the number of enrolment in graduates schools have increased. “

She appealed to the Ghana Education Service to invest more into grooming good mathematics teachers who can give students solid foundation in mathematics.

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By: Pricilla Asare

Government to Increase Research Fund

The Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Environment Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI) is set to increase scientific research fund by one percent (1%) of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

This was disclosed by the Minister of MESTI Prof. Frimpong Boateng on his second working visit to the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC).

Addressing the staff of GAEC and the media, the minister lamented at the numerous challenges confronting the commission. He described the issue of encroachment on GAEC lands, poor electricity supply and sustainable research funding as disturbing.

According to him “The government is to allocated more funds for research institutions in the country to enable them function effectively”

He expressed worry at the fact that, research institutions including GAEC, CSIR and Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research don’t receive the needed financial support to aid in their operations.

He challenged researchers to develop innovative ways of attracting local funding to expand their work, so that their findings would be owned locally for sustainable development.

He promised government’s support to help commercialize scientific findings by the commission.

On issues of encroachment on GAEC lands, Prof. Frimpong Boateng assured that, his office is liaising with the Interior Ministry and the Inspector General of Police for investigation to salvage the situation.

Prof. Frimpong Boateng on the other hand, proposed to initiate a discussion with the Ministry of Energy to ensure a viable option from the current prepaid billing for sensitive research laboratories across the country. This he said will save delicate and historical samples from irreparable damages.

“You Can’t Have All Women In The Kitchen” – Afia Boatemaa

Afia Boatemaa-Nuclear Engineer

Ghana’s second female Nuclear Engineer Afia Boatemaa has called for an affirmative action among female scientist in Ghana.

The 27 year old scientist who graduated with a Master’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Ghana, Graduate School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences (GSNAS) in 2016 is confident that, women in science can climb the ladder of success if they remain focus.

She expressed worry at the fact that, several avoidable factors have led to the fall out of most aspiring female scientists in various academic institutions across the country.

Afia Boatemaa, who is currently working with the Keshe Foundation, first pursued her undergraduate course, in Chemical Engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in the year 2013

“Female Scientists must stand their grounds and rise to defend their vision” She said. According to her, her quest to encourage other female scientists in Ghana to fight for their right came from several literatures she read concerning gender against female in science.

Afia is of the view that, the tradition that requires women to remain in the kitchen must no longer be heeded to.

Brushing off the challenges, Afia Boatemaa stressed on the need to think about solutions to curb the situation rather than trumpeting on the already known problems.

She disclosed that, even though she is yet to encounter any of such situations, she is mentally psyched to face whatever obstacle that is ahead of her.

“We are not in any competition with men; we only need an accommodating, transparent and a tolerable atmosphere to realize our dreams as female scientists.  Ghana has only three female Nuclear Engineers now and we need more.” she cries out.

She advised women not to give inn to any form of humiliation; deceit and frustrations that are meant to kill their dreams but should rather stay focused.  She hinted that, those who are financially constrained can apply for international scholarship programmes to finance their education.

She finally made an appeal to the Government to set up a fund to support financially challenged females who desire to become scientists.

Ghana’s Groundwater Reserves Threatened by Illegal Mining Activities

The Nuclear Chemistry and Environmental Research Centre (NCERC) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has warned that the country’s groundwater reserves risk being contaminated if pragmatic steps are not taken to regulate illegal gold mining activities across the mining regions.

This was disclosed in an interview by The Manager of NCERC Dr. Samuel Afful. According to him, the constant pollution of surface water bodies by illegal mining activities may also lead to groundwater pollution

The NCERC conducts environmental research which focuses on groundwater/surface water quality monitoring, soil and air quality monitoring, pesticide residue in food and other biological samples, as well as environmental remediation. The Centre employs nuclear techniques such as stable isotope hydrology and atomic absorption spectroscopy in its work.

Contaminated Water bodies by illegal mining

Surface water and groundwater interaction

According to Dr. Afful, Surface water and groundwater interaction is a natural process where nearly all surface-water features (rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, and estuaries) sink deep into the soil layers to interact with groundwater.

He said, in most  situations, surface-water bodies gain water and solutes from groundwater systems and in others the surface-water body is a source of groundwater recharge that leads to a change in groundwater quality.

Dr. Afful stressed that the diversion of water courses for mining activities may affect groundwater recharge. He further stated that overdependence on groundwater for household or commercial use due to diversion/pollution of surface water may lead to groundwater depletion. This results in existing wells and boreholes running dry.

Considering these facts, effective land and water management requires a clear understanding of the linkages between groundwater and surface water as it applies to any given hydrologic setting. He added.

Effects

“Undeniably, several health, social, and economic effects have been linked to gold mining activities that lack proper regulation. The common challenge known to everyone is the pollution of surface water (river bodies) and the environment.”  He indicated that, there is more to it than pollution of river bodies.

This he said has affected aquatic creatures (Fishes) and hampered agricultural activities in the affected regions.

Throwing light on other areas that has severely affected humanity as a result; he mentioned some widely-known social vices such as teenage pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s) and the ill-reputed school dropout syndrome as a menace that cannot be left out.

Stressing on the main point, he explained that, the groundwater is also polluted by the already contaminated “surface water” in the process of recharging.

Expressing worry at the situation, the Manager of NCERC hinted that, boreholes that become an alternative water source for mining communities are most likely to be exposed to toxic substances.  The rippling effect to humanity according to him is damaging since some sachet water (pure water) producing companies mainly resort to groundwater for their water production and is subsequently sold to unsuspecting consumers across country.

Dr. Afful lamented that, the common water treatment method used by the sachet and bottled water industry in Ghana is filtration. According to him, this method does not take out the heavy metal contaminants in the water.

He called for proper scientific treatment of surface and groundwater in the mining regions and non-mining regions that resort to the use of chemicals in fishing.

Remediation

“The next generation has nothing to live on if proper water treatment method and effective remediation procedure is not used to reclaim mined areas”. He lamented

He said, GAEC has the capacity to carry out water quality monitoring and treatment.

Speaking on land reclamation prospects. Dr. AfFul is of the view that, proper remediation procedure is required to restore the fertility of the land in order to support plant growth.  

Giving some recommendations on way forward, he advised that, Sunflower and Acacia plants are grown on mined concessions to help remove toxic materials from the soil. This he said will help the land to regain its fertility for agriculture purposes.

CNS: Review Meeting Identifies Ideas to Improve Nuclear Safety

The Seventh Review Meeting of Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety was held from 27 March to 7 April 2017 at the IAEA Headquarters, in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Contracting Parties highlighted the importance of sustaining and enhancing a nuclear safety culture, maintaining effective legal frameworks, and enforcing safety precautions within the supply chain following a two-week review of nuclear power plant safety.

Following intensive discussions and reflections on the national reports of nuclear safety programmes from 79 countries, delegates at the Seventh Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS), identified and offered ideas to ensure achievement of high levels of safety. These included ideas to address financial and human resource constraints, safety concerns related to ageing nuclear facilities, and the need for harmonized cross-border emergency planning approaches.

In their Summary Report released at the close of the 27 March – 7 April meeting, Contracting Parties also encouraged the IAEA to continue developing guidance to help countries strengthen regulatory body oversight and practice safety culture.

“Maintaining nuclear sagety requires long-term commitment and vigilance from countries, as well as effective mechanisms for early detection and assessment of problems and networks for sharing lessons learned,” said Juan Carlos Lentijo, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.

Referring to the need to maintain oversight of the supply chain to ensure safety, he said.

“This is a common issue both for countries operating nuclear power plants and those considering nuclear power programmes, because of the lack of availability of identical replacement parts and the need to be able to detect non-conforming, counterfeit, suspect or fraudulent items. Furthermore, with the number of nuclear-grade certified suppliers diminishing, access to manufacturers able to meet nuclear standards will become more challenging.”

Contracting Parties acknowledged the value of the CNS review meetings and other voluntary international peer review processes in encouraging continuous self-assessment and improvement.

“These processes effectively unearth the wealth of experience that countries have on nuclear safety issues, and this is helpful for both countries operating nuclear power plants and those just embarking on nuclear programmes,” said Ramzi Jammal, President of the Review Meeting and Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission “It is important for the IAEA and other organisations to cooperate to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of these reviews.”

Obligations under the CNS

The Convention entered into force on 24 October 1996, setting international benchmarks in the areas of nuclear installation siting, design, construction and operation, as well as financial and human resources, safety assessment and verification, quality assurance and emergency preparedness. It requires Contracting Parties to report on their implementation of obligations under the Convention and subject these reports to peer review by other Parties.

In its first decade, CNS Review Meetings focused heavily on specific technical safety issues. In recent years, the focus has shifted to continuous improvement of nuclear safety.

The CNS Contracting Parties hold Review Meetings every three years. The 8th Review Meeting will take place in 2020.