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SKA Africa Human Capital Development Programme developing regional science

Launched in 2005, the South African SKA Human Capital Development Programme (HCDP) has been devised to nurture a new generation of graduates with the technical and scientific capacity to develop the MeerKAT/SKA projects into the future.

Since its inception, the programme has awarded 293 bursaries, grants and fellowships and established five research chairs dedicated to the science and instrumentation of the MeerKAT/SKA programme and multi-wavelength astronomy. Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town (UCT), the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) were selected to host the Research Chairs as part of the South African Research Chairs Initiative, designed to support world class research and teaching at universities across the country. Bursaries cover study for PhD, MSc, undergraduate, technician and artisan qualification. The programme is also delivering tangible benefits across the region, with astronomy courses now being taught in Kenya, Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius. The investments made by the South African government into the HCDP are demonstrative of its commitment to the SKA project, and the desire to sustain research initiatives in the coming decades. During the SKA Africa Working Group meeting 1-2 September 2010, it was reported that since 2009 the universities in Mozambique, Botswana and Kenya have started undergraduate programmes and courses in astronomy and astrophysics and have great demand from students to participate. The Namibian Polytechnic now offers degrees in Geo-information Technology and Geomatics (surveying) and is developing research projects with the SKA South Africa Project Office. The University of Antanarivo in Madagascar has been offering undergraduate courses and is now offering MSc study. The University of Mauritius has been teaching undergraduate courses in astronomy for a number of years and plans on extending its existing post-graduate programme in the future. A total of 114 undergraduate students have participated in these courses in 2010 and this number is expected to increase to approximately 134 in 2011. To enhance the human capacity development initiatives in Africa, the South African SKA Project has announced the initiation of the African Technician Training Programme and the African SKA Postgraduate Bursary Programme. The South African SKA Project will support students from Africa to study and train as electronic and mechanical engineering technicians to ensure sufficient capacity for the maintenance of the telescope systems at the remote SKA stations in Africa. The programme is scheduled to start in 2011.


South Africa