Past Limerick winner of BT Young Scientist award returns from trip of a lifetime

Limerick Student and winner of the 2021 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, Aronnya Khan Zakaria, alongside Jona Garcia and Iman Shittu (Dundalk 2022 winners) in Gwembe visiting the Gwembe School Hydroponics Gardening.

A CASTLETROY student has recently returned from a once in a lifetime trip to Zambia, which she won as a prize in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in 2021.

Aronnya Khan Zakaria travelled to Zambia with a group of students who won at the national science and technology exhibition on a trip organised by development charity Self Help Africa.

Aronnya was the 2021 winner of the Irish Aid sponsored Science for Development Award,  which includes a travel bursary that is presented annually at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition in Dublin.

Organised by Self Help Africa’s development education unit to encourage student scientists to think about issues and challenges confronting people in poorer countries of the world when they design their BT projects, Aronnya Khan Zakaria won the prize for a project that analysed issues in society and home life that influenced a child’s thoughts and attitudes to racism.

“I interviewed young children in Ireland and in Bangladesh, where my family is originally from, and I surveyed them on what cultural and societal factors might affect them and influence their attitudes to different races and to racism,” Aronnya explained.

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The Castletroy student said that the trip to Zambia was eye opening, and that she didn’t know what to expect before going.

“We visited communities and projects that Self Help Africa is implementing in the country, and also met with Zambian schoolchildren with whom we shared stories,” she said.

“I had never been to the African continent before, so I didn’t know what to expect.”

Dorothy Jacob, development education programme co-ordinator at Self Help Africa, said that the recent visit brought a group of students that included four years of winners of the Science for Development Award to Zambia.

“The winners of the Science for Development Award would traditionally travel with us as part of schools study visit that we arrange annually for students and teachers, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic this trip has not happened for the past number of years.  As a result, the winners of the Irish Aid bursaries from 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 travelled on this visit,” she said.

“Our schools visits are arranged as an immersive experience for young people and provide them with an opportunity to learn more about the country that is visited, participate in workshops and presentations with their student peers, visit development projects, and hopefully develop a better understanding of the lives of people in sub-Saharan Africa.”