Preparations for Astronomy-themed Workshops at IDP Camps in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso has been subject to terror attacks since 2015 in several parts of the country, with a cluster of violence in the northern and eastern regions. These attacks pose a serious humanitarian crisis, resulting in over a thousand deaths and more than a million internally displaced individuals so far. The majority of displaced persons are women and children who have enormous needs, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly, children pay a steep price in terms of trauma and lack of quality education. Indeed, although they have access to formal education, most children in the camps are no longer motivated to attend school and prefer to work in gold mining sites where their safety and well-being are at risk.

This project will organise a 3 day-long, astronomy-themed workshop in three selected camps set up by the government to accommodate internally displaced persons (IDPs). The workshops will be aimed at children who should be attending primary school and will feature various interactive and fun STEM activities. It will also include recreational activities featuring cultural astronomy content. The workshops’ materials will be designed after interviewing the children in the selected camps, to help further understand their needs and challenges. These workshops aim to:
– alleviate the trauma endured by the camps’ young children (and also families) as a result of the armed attacks,
– stimulate in these children the will to learn and attend school,
– expose them to a world full of wonders and endless possibilities, where all ethnic groups and races are celebrated as one people.

In January 2022, the team carried out a preliminary study to identify the most appropriate sites for the activities, and requested an official authorisation from the government. It was followed by initial visits to the IDP camps and interviews with children/families. The first series of visits to the camps served as a way for the team to familiarise itself with the residents and get a sense of the approximate number of potential participants. The team then started development of workshops’ materials before a second series of visits to the camps. During these visits, they explained the idea of the workshop and gathered sentiments/inputs, selected potential volunteers, registered participants for the workshops.

Several dozens of students have also visited the astronomical observatory at the University of Ouagadougou, during which Dr Kam gave a public talk to the visitors.