That 5-day ‘Brain and Science Sensitization Outreach’ in OOU

In just five days, all the educational and awareness-creation programmes were successfully hosted, at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, OOU, in Ogun State, South Western Nigeria.

Some, took place, virtually. Another was held outside OOU’s campus environment.

They include a webinar, laboratory tour, essay competition, brain spelling bee, science debate, brain sensitization rally, and the sharing of brain health tips online and with members of the local community.

Make no mistake about it, this writer is talking about the maiden ‘Brain and Science Sensitisation Outreach’ (BSSO).

Convened by Royhaan Folarin, a neuroscientist and lecturer in the Department of Anatomy at OOU, the outreach event tagged BSSO-2021, began on Tuesday, 14 June, 2021.

Its curtain, was however, drawn on Saturday, 19 June, 2021.

Six schools participated in the secondary category, while participants in the university category comprised of student representatives across the Departments of Anatomy, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacology, Pharmacy and Physiology, all from the health sciences campus of OOU.

The 5-day event, a hybrid of physical and virtual events, was organized by the Neurophytotherapy Research Unit (NPTRU) at OOU.

It was funded by a grant received from L’Oreal Foundation for Women in Science through TReND in Africa, and supported by Science Communication Hub Nigeria (SciComNig) and African Science Literacy Network (ASLN).

According to Folarin, the programme was aimed at inspiring and motivating students (especially girls) of Nigerian secondary schools and Universities towards developing genuine interests and taking up career paths in life science and science courses generally.

On that beautiful Tuesday, the opening day, members of BSSO-2021 organizing committee, set up webinar viewing centres across the participating secondary schools, with students gathered in the hall (in compliance with COVID-19 protocols) for the virtual lectures, which bordered on brain and science.

“What Science is truly about: Career Paths in Biological Sciences”, “Is there Career in Research? Prospects of the life sciences”, “Navigating the University path: Hidden Gems and Skills”, “The Brain: A vital tool for success”, and “Animal Modelling in the study of Brain-related disorders”, were the webinar topics.

Graduating student members of NPTRU also made pre-recorded presentations, while the international speakers made live deliveries.

The secondary school students were especially happy to interact virtually with the international speakers, through series of interesting questions at the end of each presentation.

On the ‘day 2’, an essay writing competition was held physically within the Anatomy building. The Anatomy Museum, histology laboratory and central research laboratory of the faculty of basic medical sciences were then toured afterwards by all the representatives in parallel and rotated batches.

The resident staff instructor of each lab welcomed and curated them through the lab’s facilities and equipment.

On the 3rd day, it was the turn of a ‘science debate competition and brain spelling bee’ to take the centre stage. They were held physically at the Department of Anatomy, and prizes awarded at the end for 1st to 3rd positions in all the competitions for both secondary and tertiary categories.

Through a brain sensitization rally on ‘day 4’, community members were enlightened by the team on how best to keep their brains healthy.

Using flyers and dialogues, members interacted with students, children, artisans, motorists, traders, farmers, professionals, commercial motorcyclists and other locals at nearby motor parks, streets and campus areas.

On the ‘grand finale’ day, the online social community was engaged with numerous brain health tips posted periodically (throughout the day) by the BSSO-2021 officials, who also addressed participants’ questions and comments.

As Twitter was suspended in Nigeria during the period, activities of the ‘day 5’ and other previous day, were shared via Facebook (@Neurophytotherapy Research Unit) and Instagram (@nptru_anatomy).

According to Mr. Folarin, the BSSO-2021 organized by their NPTRU was a success as feedback from participants and their teachers showed appreciation of the initiative and their willingness to participate in future editions.

“It is hoped that the event marked the beginning of further outreach programmes from the research unit, with a lot of thanks again to our sponsors,” he noted.

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