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A mum service towards the Vedas and the country

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Sri Sivaraja Deekshithar - Teaching Veda to his fellow sishyas . Image source: rathnacharitabletrust.com

Chennai, TN: R R Rangarajan aspired to study Vedas as a child but this dream of his couldn’t be realized by him. His dream is now lived by his two sons who are studying in the Kanchi Mahan Vidya Mandir in Rajakizhpakkam.

He believes that he has not forced or imposed his dreams on his sons and his sons are happy in the gurukulam once he aspired to learn in.

According to the couple, this was the wisest decision they took five years ago and they are proud of it. The couple will be complimented for this in a function in the city on Sunday along with the other 300 couples from 70 different places.

Sarma Sastrigal believes that these parents are doing a commendable job at a time when rest of the crowd is chasing towards money and a secure job for their children. He further adds that this is a mum service they are doing towards the Vedas and the country.

Moreover, last year when he was invited as the chief guest at their anniversary function to the Kumbakonam Raja Veda Kavya Patasala, he was driven by the sacrifice of the parents and their children and believed that to be ignored and hence felt the need for it to be exhibited.

Students of the Raja Veda Kavya Patasala at Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district. Image source: thehindu.com
Students of the Raja Veda Kavya Patasala at Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district. Image source: thehindu.com

Nagarajan further observes that this is difficult for the children as well. The module educates them with each and every little thing from maths to physical science, from commerce to the Vedas, scriptures, dramas and many other things. He adds that in the end the final say is of the individual to chase it.

Arvind Bhatt, priest of Dattatreya temple in Gulbarga has his son studying Ghanam at Ramanasaranam, Tiruvannamalai. His son, Nirguna, showed interest in the subject since his childhood. In the beginning he was admitted in a Patsala in North Canara but was not happy with the module there on its completion, so he shifted from there. Here the relationship which he shares with his guru is indescribable. He further plans to graduate in advance level in the subject.

Mr Balasubramaniam of Kumbakonam Kavya Patasala is hopeful that more parents will choose this field for the education of their children. Moreover, he feels that parents have to be encouraged to motivate their children in the right path. However, he feels sad that studying Vedas is never a priority for parents.

He further believes that the energy and memory levels of students while young are unmatchable and they master course with less difficulty. So, the children have to be enrolled in the course when young.

The town echoed with Veda mantras during Mahamagham recited by hundreds of scholars and students from various states and the country. The spirit of the land relies on it and people are trying their best to keep this alive. (Inputs from The Hindu)

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More Science Careers: African School Of Physics on Mission To Educate New African Generation Through Traveling Program

"Science is increasingly recognized as an important engine of economic growth and societal advancement," she wrote in an email. She noted "increasing numbers of such programs on the African continent, where there is a surging young population entering the workforce."

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Ketevi Assamagan, a particle physicist at the U.S.-based Brookhaven National Laboratory, co-founded the African School of Physics, a training program for graduate students in math and sciences. (Photo courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory) VOA

Africa-born particle physicist Ketevi Assamagan is a man on a mission. His goal is to bring science education to a new generation of young Africans through a traveling program known as the African School of Fundamental Physics and Applications, or ASP.

“Sometimes, people just need some help to be able to find the right resources,” said Assamagan, an ASP founder who works at the U.S. Energy Department’s Brookhaven National Laboratory here on Long Island. “So, together with some colleagues, we decided to create this school.”

Born in Guinea, Assamagan grew up in Togo and earned a doctorate from the University of Virginia in 1995. Gratitude to past mentors fueled his desire to start the ASP, he said.

Positive elements

The ASP program runs for three weeks every two years in a different African country. The first was in 2010 in South Africa, with subsequent gatherings in Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda and Namibia. The next is planned for July 2020 in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Each workshop brings together up to 80 students, who are treated to intensive lectures and training by top-flight physicists.

Physicist Ketevi Assamagan demonstrates how a cloud chamber works. (A. Phillips/VOA)
Physicist Ketevi Assamagan demonstrates how a cloud chamber works. (A. Phillips/VOA)

“We get students from all over Africa [who] have at least three years of university education,” Assamagan said. “The majority of them are usually at the master’s level and they come from different fields: nuclear and high energy physics, medical applications, computing, mathematics and theoretical physics.”

The students’ expenses are covered by roughly 20 international sponsors, including the Brookhaven lab; the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy; the South African Department of Science and Technology; and Italy’s National Institute for Nuclear Physics.

Another sponsor has been the European Center for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, in Geneva. Assamagan worked on CERN’s particle accelerator for several years while conducting research on the elusive Higgs boson subatomic particle. He left in 2001 to join Brookhaven.

Sustained support

After the program, participants are paired with senior mentors who offer advice on additional education, teaching and research opportunities, both in Africa and abroad.

For Zimbabwe native Last Feremenga, participation in the 2010 ASP workshop served as a springboard to a doctorate in physics from the University of Texas. Now he’s a data scientist with Digital Reasoning, an artificial intelligence firm headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I sift through large datasets of written text in search of rare forms of conversations/language. These rare conversations are useful for our clients from health care to finance,” the 32-year-old told VOA in an email. He added that he’s using “similar tactics” to those he learned at ASP.

Julia MacKenzie, senior director of international affairs for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says training programs such as ASP are especially important in developing countries.

“Science is increasingly recognized as an important engine of economic growth and societal advancement,” she wrote in an email. She noted “increasing numbers of such programs on the African continent, where there is a surging young population entering the workforce.”

“A potential impact of graduate training is exposure to new ideas and people,” MacKenzie added. “Any time graduate students can come together, it’s likely that new friendships will form, and those relationships can provide support through inevitable challenges and spawn new collaborations.”

application learning
“We get students from all over Africa [who] have at least three years of university education,” Assamagan said. “The majority of them are usually at the master’s level and they come from different fields: nuclear and high energy physics, medical applications, computing, mathematics and theoretical physics.” Pixabay
Hands-on learning

Assamagan says that when he was in high school in Togo, science was taught from second-hand textbooks from abroad. There was no experimentation.

“Direct involvement … in terms of playing with things and getting mental challenge to try to figure it out was not really there,” he said. “We want to resolve that” through ASP.

The 70 or so science teachers at the workshop last year in Namibia learned hands-on experiments that could be replicated with scant equipment and resources.

For example, using only a small plastic box with an aluminum plate, tin foil, Styrofoam, pure alcohol and dry ice, high school students could build a tabletop “cloud chamber” to simulate the detection of cosmic particles from outer space. Another experiment taught physics to elementary school children by way of art. The children could drip paint on a canvas tilted at various angles, then observe the patterns the paint made as it descended.

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“You can then start introducing the idea of gravity,” Assamagan said. “And then relating things falling down to the Earth going around the sun as being driven by the same force.”

Assamagan predicts a bright future for physics research in Africa. He says he sees talent and commitment, but that more digital libraries, along with continent-wide access to high-speed internet connections and the political will to provide them, are needed. (VOA)