Category Archives: Uganda

3rd expedition 2013

Science and Culture

By Betty Kituyi (Coordinator Café Scientifique Uganda)

Mathew (Betty's son) at culture day at Daffodils Academy

Mathew (Betty’s son) at Daffodils Academy’s culture day

I recently (23 September to 4 October 2013) led a group of astronomers from the GaileoMobile project on an expedition in five of our Ugandan Café Sci secondary schools. This was a highly practical science experience for students and teachers as they learnt about planets, stars and observations of the sky through the telescope.

Who knew that astronomy could connect cultures just as we recently discovered on this trip. Not only were the GalileoMobile team members diverse in cultures coming from different countries across the world, they led by example and provoked our students to translate astronomy related terms in their local languages. The translation of astronomy into the numerous Ugandan languages became one of the most popular activities as students crowded around the boards, consulted and discussed with their peers about astronomy in Acholi, Luganda, Lugisu, Lunyankole etc! This was fun! The team members after recording the verbal translations of astronomy to Ugandan languages appealed to the students to keep their local languages alive!

By coincidence, at the time I was writing this post, it was my son’s culture day at Daffodils Academy. He dressed in a few assorted Bagisu cultural items for circumcision, imbalu, that included a hair band; coloured beads he wore on top of his t-shirt across the neck and running through the lower abdomen; a scuff tied around his waist to make it more flexible during the dance and a whisk which is a preserved monkey’s tail.

Matthew told me at the end of the day that the culture day was interesting. He said he represented the Bagisu tribe in his school by telling them about our greeting – Mulembe, Oryena, Bulayi … He said this in quick succession meaning peace, how are you and am well! When I asked him to describe other activities of the day, he said there was drama about circumcision by the Bagisu, a traditional wedding, songs and dances. He said he liked the Indian Dance so much he nearly cried! I pretended I hadn’t heard my son properly when he said this, so I asked him to repeat what he just said and he went, ‘I liked the Indian dance so much I nearly cried’. I was happily tickled by this sentimental side of my soon to be nine year old son! But he also liked the Kinyankole and Teso dances.

Celebrating culture days in schools is a good thing. The children not only find their identity, they connect with their emotions.

Just like in the recently concluded GalileoMobile expedition in Uganda, integrating local language in interpreting science related concepts may go a long way in influencing attitudes towards the subject and hence a wonderful way of culturally examining science.

Thank you Uganda!

The Uganda 2013 expedition, (Sharing Astronomy) In the Land of Beauty, came to an end. We are all back to our countries, safe and sound. However, we have the feeling our minds are still there.

Those three weeks spent in Kampala, Jinja and Mbale were splendid! The main goals of the project were achieved, namely our participation in the “Engaging Young People in Science and Technology” conference, the visits to five schools, the workshops with the teachers, the activities with the students, and the shootings for the documentary.

Group picture

GalileoMobile team and Saint Kizito Senior Secondary School students.

We owe a huge thanks to all people who supported us and have worked to make this dream come true: from GalileoMobile team members, to our worldwide net of sponsors, to local collaborators, teachers and students.

We have been receiving very encouraging comments from our local collaborators, the teachers and also the students. Many people have already expressed the desire to make part of GalileoMobile and/or to create a collaboration group in their school/towns. We have been supporting them to join forces and implement this idea. Many others keep wishing that we return to Uganda for another expedition.


Phil following the GalileoMobile opening talk together with the Ndejje
Senior Secondary School students

Our typical day at schools consisted in two sessions during the mornings to work with teachers, and two sessions during the afternoons to work with students. A few times we had the collaboration of teachers who participated in the workshops in the morning, but most of the time, GalileoMobile team members carried out the activities with the students in the afternoon. After our arrival at schools, we started with the opening talk and ended with the Café-sci session about one chosen topic on astronomy or with a good-bye ceremony. Worth noting is the number of students at the schools we visited: always more than a thousand! We did not know about this prior to the expedition. The school visits are detailed  in our previous blog posts about Uganda. For more details click here.


Fabio (colorful pants), Nuno and Phil and Mbale Senior Secondary
School students

There was also a report from the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), the national TV channel, which we will make available soon to everybody on our Youtube and Vimeo channels.

Important people names in this project are: Betty Kituyi and her family, who helped us a lot with the logistics of the expedition, Duncan Dallas (Café Scientifique), who financially supported this project, Solomon King from Fundi Bots and Ghazali Mohamed, an amateur astronomer, originally supposed to travel with GalileoMobile and that quickly connected himself with the team. Their support have been a key point in the expedition.

Nuno, Betty and Philippe

Telescope donation to Betty Kituyi, the Uganda Café-Sci coordinator

Domenico and Maria Serena, the “lovely couple” and our film-makers are already working on the documentary and we expect a first draft soon.


Maria Serena (film-maker), Bety Kituyi (Café-Sci), Pati (GalileoMobile)

Most of all, we feel that we reinforced the connections between us, and we made new friends. Our idea of “Unity Under the Same Sky” has been loved by all the students and people we have met during the expedition: it is a strong and beautiful vision of the world that we will keep spreading throughout our initiative.


Nuno at the source of the Nile being offered a sugar cane by a local
student while being taught about local astronomy traditions


Phil and Mbale Senior Secondary School students


Nabisunsa Girls and Pati at the Engaging Young People in Science and
Technology workshop

Fabio with students

Fabio and Saint Kizito Senior Secondary School students

And now, after going back to our lives, we keep working on GalileoMobile, moving towards new ideas, expeditions, activities:

All under the same sky!

Nuno, Fabio, Pati and Phil

Manafwa College – Unity beyond belief

On 2-3 October 2013, GalileoMobile visited Manafwa College in Mbale city. During this stay, GalileoMobile offered astronomy-related activities to teachers and students and presented a Café-Sci session. Over a 1,000 students attended our activities and gathered in a farewell ceremony which configured the end of GalileoMobile activities in Uganda.

Our activities at Manafwa started with the opening talk, led by Fabio. We proceeded with the first session of the workshop for teachers. The workshops are comprised of an introduction to the donated materials and to inquiry-based teaching, a demonstration of some activities of the GalileoMobile handbook of activities, Galileoscope assembling and pointing, and an introduction to Stellarium. The workshops are endorsed by the Galileo Teacher Training Programme.

Opening talk

Opening talk

Teachers practising with the telescope

Teachers practising with the telescope

Shortly after lunch, we witnessed the pray time of the students. They were gathered in a classroom and a female student preached the word, while the other students mumbled their own prayers. Songs and beats of drums also made part of this ceremony. Worth noting is that both catholic and Muslim students are enrolled at Manafwa College. They all live together in harmony.

In the afternoon, we performed activities with students of two different classes, each one of them had two GalileoMobile members leading. These classes were comprised of 120 students, which was a large number even for Ugandan schools. We performed ‘The Earth’s orbit’ and ‘Rotation of the Sun’ activities from our handbook and practised telescope pointing.

In the morning of the second day, we worked again with teachers and in the afternoon with other two groups of students. This time we performed ‘The Earth as a Peppercorn!’ and simulated the Moon phases and eclipses. Both activities were a great success. The former because students felt amused by the size of our planetary system and the latter because of the total solar eclipse, which will occur on the 3 November 2013, and will be visible from Uganda.

PIC 3 - Students trying to build their own reduced-scale solar system model

Students trying to build their own reduced-scale solar system model

Placing the reduced-scale solar system at correct proportions

Placing the reduced-scale solar system at correct proportions

The Café-Sci session took place during lunch time of the second day. Our team member Nuno presented the Café-Sci about the sun and stars.

Café-Sci session

Café-Sci session

We finished our activities with a farewell ceremony. At this moment, we took the opportunity to donate the material and finish our linguistic exchange of astronomy-related words translated to local language. In addition, some students stepped forward to sing and play the drums with us. At the very end, Betty Kituyi, our collaborator, asked the students to sing a song for us: “Well done, well done, my Galileo Team!” Hundreds of students chorused this refrain. The feeling of unity under the same sky reached us all.

Preparing the last board with astronomy-related words

Preparing the last board with astronomy-related words

Many students manifested their interest in organising GalileoMobile clubs in their schools. In particular, at Manafwa, we left a sample of a GalileoMobile handbook of activities to the science club. We are looking forward to see what these wonderful and motivated students will prepare for the solar eclipse!

Celebrating the idea of a Galileo club at Manafwa

Celebrating the idea of a Galileo club at Manafwa