The Optimist Citizen

Susan Murabana’s Travelling Telescope is changing the lives of thousands of children in Kenya

More often than not, semblance of the word Africa conjures up an image of an eternally impoverished continent whose sole global identity is that of a third world nation. To prove this notion wrong, one woman is working out there with her telescope to change the stars of the nation and to project an image of Africa beyond development statistics.

Susan Murabana, aged 37, always had an acute fondness for science as a kid. But it was only after she met a group of travelling astronomers that she found her true calling in astronomy.

“I got inspired for astronomy when I joined an organization called Cosmos Education while still pursuing my undergraduate studies in Economics from the University of Nairobi. The organization mainly comprised of astronomy and astrophysics students and professors who travelled across Africa teaching hands-on science in schools and villages. I was inspired by the whole idea of teaching science, especially astronomy, and became interested in the initiative.” said Susan.

Students watching through Solar glasses

She started going to schools in all parts of Kenya where she interacted with teachers and students, introducing them to the universe through a telescope. It was during such a rendezvous with the universe when the stars came in her favour and Susan met her husband Daniel-Chu Owen. They came to know each other when he came to make a film about her role in delivering 5,000 solar-safe glasses to children before a total eclipse visible from a remote region of northern Kenya.

Students observing through Telescope

The idea of Travelling Telescope, Susan and Daniel’s organization, was conceived just 6 months after they met. Daniel brought out the first conception during a trip to Scotland, where he offered free star-gazing nights for the public. The idea grew as he realised that most people had never even looked through a telescope; a relatively simple device that has been around for over 400 years.

The idea was implemented in Kenya and they never looked back. Over the course of 2 years, the travelling telescope has reached more than 30,000 children, in more than 100 schools, in Kenya and Tanzania. But, often, the stark contrast in the places she visits is disquieting. From schools with well-equipped to places without even a roof, Susan has seen a lot. But, her optimism never ends. “Beyond all barriers, beyond every obstacle, I feel that education in science is the single best thing we can do for the next generation. It is only through science that we can understand the world we live in and how to live peacefully and sustainably on it. I feel astronomy for kids is as an opportunity to spread interest in science in the region, and Kenya as a whole”, says Susan.

Session at a school

Now planning to expand their base of work, the folks at Travelling Telescope plan to build a permanent planetarium and observatory, dedicated to the public, through a crowd-funding campaign. They want to create a space where people of all ages can come in, peer through a lens towards the sparkling universe and change the stars of their destiny.


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