Every School to plant trees during Galway Science Festival!

Thanks to the generousity of Aerogen, the Irish medical tech company, every primary and post primary school in Galway city and county will be offered a free tree pack, consisting of four different native Irish species, as part of next month's Galway Science and Technology Festival. Our theme for 2019 is Climate Action and we want to ensure that all our young people will be given an opportunity to play their part in saving the planet and in understanding the science behind Climate Chaos.

So the proposal is that the schools will plant the trees in their grounds or locality at the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month (11am, Nov 11).
Each school will be asked to photograph or film the planting (or of the trees after planting) and post onto online social media. The best three images/films will be awarded €200 vouchers for Dangan Nurseries (to buy more trees and flowers for planting!).
Through this wonderful initiative which feeds into the National Park Strategy for Galway, the young people of our city and county will be active participants in tackling climate chaos and enhancing biodiversity.

Call to Galway youth to turn Climate Protest into Climate Science

We are asking Galway’s children, youth and schools to consider transforming the enthusiasm and concern that was so obvious at last month’s Climate Strike protests into meaningful sustainable scientific climate action themed projects for showcasing at November’s Galway Science and Technology Festival, in order to increase public awareness on the dangers of, as well as the solutions to, global warming and the mass extinction of species.
The children of the world have spoken and the adults of the world need to heed their warnings. But as the sixteen year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has stated over and over again, ‘Listen to the Science’. The theme of the annual Galway Science and Technology Festival taking place next month is ‘Climate Action’. So, as part of this two week long event, we are calling on all of Galway schools to open their doors to their communities and to display their Climate Change-related projects during this period.  Every one of the almost three hundred schools in the city and county are undertaking at least one wonderful scientific project  that is directly or indirectly related to the twin global dangers of climate chaos and biodiversity loss .  With the message of ‘Think Global, Act Local’, these may include a study of a local bog, turlough, river or seashore; the implementation of pro-recycling waste management system in a school; the development of a school organic garden; the monitoring of local air quality;  a long term study of the causes of changing weather patterns; the planting of a woodland or bee-friendly wild flower meadow; an analysis of renewable energies; the hosting of cycling and walking initiatives; a  review of how to one’s lifestyle more healthy.
But we are also asking schools to consider reaching a wider audience by exhibiting on Sunday November 24th in NUI Galway when over 22,000 visitors attend Ireland’s largest one day science and technology fair. This event also hosts a fantastic range of exhibits from world leading Galway-based corporations, indigenous companies, learning centres, and third level colleges and research institutes.”
A number of other exciting Climate Change and Citizen Science initiatives are being planned for the festival including a native tree planting programme involving every school in the city and county.
To book an exhibition space at the Science Fair on November 24th, schools and youth groups are asked to contact me  at brendan.smith@insight-centre.org

Proud to be Irish in Tanzania!

A few weeks ago I was present in Dar es Salaam to listen to the Irish Ambassador to Tanzania, Paul Sherlock, officially announce that Irish Aid, the Irish government's international development aid programme, had become a partner and sponsor of the Africa Code Week(ACW) initiative.
I was there in the companionship of my fellow Irishmen, the wonderful Kevin Conroy and Liam Ryan (SAP Ireland CEO), as well as the visionary Claire Gillissen from France.
It was my third trip to this lovely country in my capacity as a lead mentor and course content developer for ACW. The first time was during the summer of 2017 in the company of Bernard Kirk, Camden Trust CEO/ Director of the Galway Education Centre, and Ciaran Cannon TD, then newly appointed Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development.
This Irish Aid announcement continues a long tradition, going back to the 19th century, of Irish people being involved in supporting the continent and its people in the areas of education, health, community development and human rights.
In so many African countries that I have visited since 2015, I have talked to Africans that tell me fondly of the help that they have received from the Irish. In Uganda it was a senior civil servant called Patrick who was taught by Irish priests; in South Africa it was a Muslim teacher who was given his schooling by Irish clerics; in Ethiopia it was a NGO manager applauding the work of Trócaire and Camara in his country; in Tanzania it was the teenagers of the Holy Union Sisters Debrabant High School praising their principal, Sister Annette Farrell from Kilconnel in east Galway.

Unlike some other European countries, Ireland never came to Africa as an colonial power to brutally rob it of its human and natural resources. We came not as conquerors but as educators and healers. During the days of the British Empire, when our own country was a colony, our countrymen and women often arrived as teachers and doctors to countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. It was said by many that I have met during the course of my travels across the continent that, where it not for the Irish clerics, their parents and grandparents would never have got an education. So many leaders of the independence movement were taught in Irish-run schools.
This Irish tradition of education and community empowerment continues with the ongoing work of Trocaire, Concern, Gorta Self Help Africa, Goal and Irish Aid that includes individuals that I have known and that I have the upmost respect for, such as Ronan Scully, Alan Kerins and Diarmuid Ó'Brien.
But this tradition also got a major technology learning surge in recent years with the involvement of Irish personnel of SAP Ireland and of Camden Trust as trainers in the wonderfully inspiring Africa Code Week. Along with Claire Gillissen, Bernard Kirk played a fundamental role in establishing in 2015 what today is surely the largest pan-Atlantic digital literacy initiative in the history of the continent. Thanks to the great organisational skills of Sunil Geness, Ibrahim Khafagy, Julie Cleverdon, Ademola Ajayi and so many other great Africans, it is supported by 28 governments, partnering 130 partners (mainly local NGOs), has been rolled out to 37 countries and has provided coding workshops to over 4.1 million youth and teachers.
The aim of Africa Code Week is to build community capacity to drive sustainable learning impact across Africa instilling coding skills in the young generation.
So I give a big and sincere 'Bualadh Bos' to my fellow Irish men and women who worked with me in Africa as part of ACW- Kevin Conroy, Nuala Dalton, Nuala Allen, Cliodhna and Aoife Kirk. Africa's time has come and they have helped it to happen

40+ years on and we are still protesting at Eyre Square!

It was great to join my good friend Mick McArdle and his teenage son from Kinvara in the youth-led Climate Action protest this lunchtime in Eyre Square. It brought back happy memories of our time in UCG during the late 1970s when Mick and myself regularly joined hundreds of other young students in marches and protests to Eyre Square on many different campaigns on many different issues but with a common denominator of justice, equality and a better life for all in Ireland and across the globe.

Decades later we are still there fighting the same or similar battles! Though no longer young, we hope that the same idealism still burns within us. As Mick says, “Still crazy, but active, after all these years.”
I just made it to the protest in Galway as I only arrived back in Ireland at Dublin Airport from Mozambique (mentoring coding workshops for teachers) a few hours before!
Of course marches do not in isolation achieve positive change. But they are often a very positive step in the process to do so