Doing Nottingham proud

This is a guest post by Christine Cleave, a member of the ENTHUSE project team. It is the last post in the ENTHUSE series. Christine’s post captures exactly my thoughts and feelings on working with Emma, Jarrod, Jeremy, and Tiago in Ethiopia — it was an honour to be part of a project which benefited so much from their enthusiasm, commitment, knowledge, skills, and company.

It is now a little while since experiencing the heat of Adama with the ENTHUSE team. Despite the fact that I have made regular visits to Ethiopia to teach practical work to teachers since October 2008, this was a landmark trip because the team members from the University of Nottingham helped to make a difference in new and significant ways.

In their brief they were asked to devise an experiment which required materials that could be obtained locally. Our walk to the local shops to buy these things took the Nottingham students past the shoeshine boys, the pavement stalls and the beggars, a vibrant testimony to the difficulties of most of the Ethiopian population to making ends meet. They experienced the humour and kindness of the shopkeepers, when buying such things as straws and sponges. And they engaged with it all at every stage. Their own blogs show their lasting impressions.

I shall remember the clarity of their communication, whether they were explaining the Physics of taking a sealed bottle of water from Addis Ababa to a lower altitude at Adama, or talking about electronics or neutron stars. I celebrate the fact that their demonstrations were carefully thought through and planned so that they really worked; one resulted in teacher excitement at finding the number of atoms in a pencil mark on paper.

The students showed personal qualities of resilience and determination in difficult situations – when the electricity or the water wasn’t working in the labs, when exhausted in the heat or not quite adjusting to the food, when asked to be flexible about where or when they did their teaching and when requested to fetch and carry apparatus. They never moaned!

I have to admit that I had a wonderful time, as I got the chance to sit around with them over meals and just talk about physics. Physicists have a unique sense of humour!

The Nottingham students gave us the chance to extend the project in new ways, especially in helping the teachers to experience what it was like to get real data and to question why we didn’t all get the same answer when making measurements.

They absolutely made the most every experience on offer, whether faced with eating colossal quantities of injera, or sleeping under huge mosquito nets.

The University can have immense pride in their graduates and undergraduates. These young people were stunning ambassadors – able to use their education and also to engage sensitively with others from a very different culture. They gained the warm respect and thanks of the Ethiopian teachers.


Author: Philip Moriarty

Physicist. Rush fan. Father of three. (Not Rush fans. Yet.) Rants not restricted to the key of E minor...