Short talk at CIRTA Science competition awards ceremony

Sirus Astronomy Association organises an annual regional science outreach event where high school students compete to win prestigious prizes. Participants compete by answering a number of challenges across a couple of rounds in diverse areas, including physics, chemistry and general knowledge. This year, Sirus ran the 6th edition of the Cirta Science Competition and this year’s prize is an exciting visit to the Large Hadron Collider. The winners announcements event gathered students, parents and teachers and took place at the University of Constantine. For this occasion, I was kindly invited to give a short speech on behalf of Other invitees included scientists and researchers from Sharjah (UAE), Gaza (Palestine), and a representative from the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

CIRTA science competition banner

This is the translated text of the speech I had prepared for this occasion:

“Salaam all and thank you for giving me the opportunity to be with you here today, I am very happy to be part of a celebration of science, which is in much need to be promoted and placed at its righteous place in our society.

So, a great thanks goes to Sirus Association for the wonderful work they are doing to promote a culture of knowledge and science and whose efforts have allowed us to be here today, may God bless your work and reward you for all your efforts.

My salutations go to everyone present, I am honoured to be with you today, salutations to the students and their parents and to their teachers, who are at the forefront in the struggle that is the nurturing of the next generation of active citizens who will hopefully make the country stand tall amongst other nations.

And of course congratulations to the winners of this year’s CIRTA Science Competition for their achievements, for excelling in this competition, I hope that this win will motivate you to continue to work hard and to excel in your studies in the future.

But when we get together to celebrate science, to celebrate knowledge, excellence and hard work, then we are all winners really. For me, everyone who participated, and in fact everyone who is here today is a winner. When we get to together to promote science then we are winners, and as parents, when we motivate our children to be the best they can be, then we are winners, and as teachers, when we nurture the curiosity of our students and open up avenues for them to fully explore their potential, then we are winners.

More importantly, every single student who participated in this competition is also a winner. This is because, I am sure, what drove them to participate in this competition in the first place were key elements, like curiosity and aspiration to discover new experiences and new things.

And these are indeed key ingredients of truly great scientists. Every great scientist throughout history, before anything, was driven by their curiosity, wonder and a need to reflect and discover. So if you, and I’m talking to the students here, if you were motivated by these kinds of things, then know for sure that there is a great scientist in you just waiting to be set free, waiting to blossom. And please don’t underestimate this, it’s a great gift and a blessing that needs to be nurtured.

And if curiosity, wonder and aspiration to discover new things are the ingredients of true scientists, then the ability to ask questions and to address challenging problems in a systematic and methodological way are their tools.

These kind of things need the right environment for them to nurtured.

We have therefore a great responsibility, as parents, as educators, and as policy makers to ensure that we provide the right environments that nurture rather than suppress these ingredients and their potentials. We have a lot work to do in this regard, still, and even though this is not a problem specific to Algeria, but faces all nations and all societies, we should be thinking hard about how to remove the hurdles that face us at the moment and that are likely to suppress creativity and curiosity.

For those of you who are going to go to CERN, that place is indeed a great example of how human kind nurtured the ingredients of curiosity and discovery together with robust methodology to address one of the most challenging questions currently facing us as a species.

It is great to see Sirus’s choice of matching the young generation with a place that is considered the top advancement in science in human history.

Speaking of history, we ought to remember our responsibilities and our place in the history of modern Algeria.

Our grandparents fought hard to preserve our identity and liberate our country. And we shouldn’t forget that one the weapons they used was knowledge. Back then, when Ibn Badis said in his famous poem خذ للحياة سلاحها (take on life’s arms) he was of course referring to knowledge, amongst other things. So, we have to remember at all times, that now is our turn to continue that struggle, and certainly not just by re-uttering eloquent poems every 16th of April! That would be the greatest insult to the legacy of our forefathers.

It is our turn, everyone in this room and beyond, to be thankful for the blessing that resulted from the struggle of our forefathers, and be thankful in an active way, because God won’t change the state of a nation until they change themselves. So, it is now our turn to take Algeria to the next step in its history and to do so while fully realising that knowledge and science are key to helping us do just that, to use rigour, excellence and engagement, to fight ignorance and mediocrity in all its forms when addressing the challenging problems that face us today.

So, so as not to take too much of your time, I would like to say again congratulations to the winners, and congratulations to everyone here, everyone is a winner when we place knowledge and science at the top of our priorities. To the students, remember that you are here because you have the ingredients of truly great scientists, so always remember to dare to follow your curiosity and dare to ask questions, like Ibn Basis said in that same poem خض الخطوبة و لا تهب (venture in expression and debate and do not be afraid), so don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t be afraid to be critical and to express your thoughts, and those of you who are at CERN, make the most of it and ask many many questions!

Don’t be ashamed to say I don’t know, don’t be ashamed to give your opinion, and always dare to be critical. If you do this, you will surprise yourself. I promise.

To teachers and parents and to us all, let’s hopefully continue to work hard to nurture potential, creativity and curiosity and not suppress them. The best way to do this is to rethink and re-prioritise the values on which we build our educational environments.

So, thank you again for having me with you, and for being patient listening to what I had to say, may god make us sincere and successful. “

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