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Mario Campanelli (CERN and UCL) and Ketevi Assamagan (Brookhaven National Laboratory)
The African School of Fundamental Physics and Applications (https://www.africanschoolofphysics.org/) has been founded in 2010 with the aim of promoting fundamental science in Africa, where research in some of these topics is still in an early stage.
So far the school has been biennial, with a continuous mentorship of students even when there is no formal school. The 2018 edition, the fifth, took place in Windhoek, Namibia, after the previous venues of Stellenbosch (South Africa), Kumasi (Ghana), Dakar (Senegal) and Kigali (Rwanda). Students at master and PhD level from various African countries are selected from a vast number of potential candidates based on their academic records, and invited to spend three weeks with their peers and the teachers, following classes in theoretical physics, experimental physics and technological developments, given by world-class experts from universities and research institutes from all over the world (including Africa, and African scientists working outside the continent). Despite the differences in the academic level of the students and in their field of specialization, the lectures and practical demonstrations are always followed with great interest and participation, and are followed by discussions in dedicated sessions and in more informal settings.
The ASP has evolved to be much more than a school. It is a program of actions with directed ethos toward physics as an engine for development in Africa.
Apart from an dedicated public session with policimakers about the future of science in Africa, for the first time the school was coupled with the first African Conference on Physics and Applications (https://www.africanschoolofphysics.org/acp2018/), an international conference with speakers on topics like high-energy physics and astrophysics, nuclear physics, computing, medical physics, renewable energies, outreach and science communication, etc. The students from the school were encouraged to attend a few sessions from the conferences, and the speakers for the conference were participating to the same social program as the students and lecturers of the school, providing interesting opportunities for discussion and networking. In addition, a teachers’ program has been developed, with several high-school teachers from Namibia following a dedicated program of talks and demonstrations of didactic experiments they could perform in a school setting, even with limited means. Finally, a school program running in parallel has taken lecturers from the school giving day-long presentations and demonstrations in schools from various parts of the capital and its surroundings, attended by hundreds of schoolchildren of different age ranges.
The sixth edition of the African School, and the second edition of the conference, will take place in summer 2020 in Marrakesh, Morocco. Even if there is still quite some time to go, the preparation for the venue, the contact with local organisers (some of whom have been regular lecturers in the previous editions of the the school, others have visited the Namibia edition) are well under way. A closer interplay between the school and the conference is foreseen, and the program aimed at schools (teachers + students) is expected to be further expanded.
Some images from the 2018 edition of the African School and Conference in Windhoek, Namibia