Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Glimpse into Africa and World Prehistory: Naivasha Outreach

Lawrence Nzuve

The party of the Prehistory Club train to Naivasha was one of immense success in recent times. The turnout was enormous with more than one thousand students and teachers from several neighboring schools converging at Naivasha Mixed Secondary School for the long awaited lecture that was ably given by Dr. Fredrick Manthi, EBS, Senior Research Scientist, National Museums of Kenya, Earth Sciences Department, Paleontology Section and Post-doctoral Fellow, Stony Brook University, New York.. Mrs. Wanyoike, a teacher from Naivasha Mixed Secondary School who also mobilized the students to the function, introduced the visitors who also included Mrs Grace Kyalo; Coordinator Prehistory Club of Kenya who was in charge of organizing the activities of the day and Mr. Francis Ndiritu; Operations and Public Affairs, Prehistory Club of Kenya who was in charge of photography and other logistics. Other schools attending were Naivasha Girls Secondary School, Naivasha Day Secondary School and Mirela Secondary School

Teachers and students from participating schools in the lecture hall; Many History and Biology teachers also benefited from the lecture

In his highly captivating lecture, Dr. Manthi explained the issues of humans origins and evolution with emphasis being on the major characteristics that defined the differences and similarities among the major species in the genus Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Homo. The role of ‘Adaptation for existence’ or ‘descent with modification’ the key factor that led to evolution was discussed as defined by Sir Charles Darwin. The ‘use and disuse’ of special body parts put across by Lamarck was also discussed. Hominid cast of Homo erectus was displayed for practical sessions. In his power point presentation, Dr. Manthi compared different early humans ancestors in a sequential order highlighting on their characteristics. He stressed the fact that all humans are one despite their affiliations in skin colour, tribe, political boundaries, religion etc. This was very crucial especially in this region of Naivasha where the effects of after poll skirmishes were severe. The killings and destruction was done on ethnic bases.He also looked into non-hominoid paleofauna and paleoflora represented at the National Museums.

Keen students follow the proceedings: the lecture was indeed an eye opener

The questions and answer section served to clear the remaining doubts, suspicions and worries among the students and teachers concerning prehistory especially the topic of human origins and evolution. Dr. Manthi highlighted on the minimum requirements one requires to undertake courses on Earth Sciences including paleontology, archaeology and geology at the university. The students were so blissful and some promised to undertake courses in prehistory at the university level. The teachers commended the Leakey Foundation for sponsoring this outreach program which is helping them to answer most of the challenging questions from the students. The day was not complete without a poem by a student from Naivasha Mixed Secondary School, warning the participants of the threats of HIV virus and AIDS pandemic. He recited the poem in a very humorous but emotional way and at the end everybody had a point to ponder about this menace

We sincerely thank The Leakey Foundation for funding this outreach program.