The Scatterlings of Africa project

Africa is the birthplace of humankind, the continent on which ancestors of all people originated, and the place preserving a fossil record for the origins of humans and other life forms. Development of Africa's fossil heritage for the benefit of the continent requires coordination and equitable distribution of private, corporate and government support for the creation of sustainable origin sciences education, research and outreach programmes. 

Standard Bank has been the principal corporate funder of PAST, the Palaeontological Scientific Trust, since 1997. PAST is a Johannesburg-based public benefit organisation that since 1994 has been dedicated to the protection, preservation and promotion of Africa's ancient cultural and natural heritage for the benefit of Africans and humankind in its entirety. As the continent's hub for the promotion and support of the origin sciences, PAST has brought together scientists, business, government, civil society and communities for the sustained advancement of research, education and public awareness of the origins sciences, including palaeontology, palaeoanthropology, archaeology and cognate sciences.

Much of PAST's prior work has been focused on South African origin sciences. PAST's newest initiative, Scatterlings of Africa, is an ambitious effort to expand the organisation's mission across Africa while retaining its traditional core focus on South Africa. The objectives of the Scatterlings of Africa project are to 1) ignite an interest in Africa's ancestral heritage at primary and secondary school levels, 2) grow the capacity for African university students, professional scientists and origin sciences technicians to manage and develop African origin sciences, and 3) promote to African and global communities the philosophical and practical relevance of developing the origin sciences.

PAST's operational mission for Scatterlings of Africa project will be implemented through seven programmes which include:

  • Walking Tall School Projects - to educate learners about their African heritage, through the acclaimed Walking Tall Educational Theatre Project, a Walking Tall Origin Sciences Camp for Advanced Learners and a Walking Tall Origin Sciences Career Guidance programme.
  • Degree Support for Students at African Universities- to provide bursaries for postgraduate students in the origin sciences at Honours, Masters and Doctoral levels, post-Doctoral fellowships, and funds facilitating the participation of African students in established origin sciences field schools.

  • Technical Training and Capacity Support - to provide training and support for field and laboratory technical assistants working on fossil survey and excavation, and the preparation, casting and curation of fossil collections.

  • Young African Scientist Development - to provide basic research support for recent Masters and Doctoral degree recipients in the origin sciences so that their skills are retained in Africa.

  • Research Project Support - to provide funding for cutting-edge museum, laboratory or field research in the origin sciences conducted by senior scientists based at African institutions.

  • Publication and Conference Support - to support the publishing of research results in the African origin sciences by providing partial funding for Africa-based scientific journal publication costs and for conferences of African origin sciences associations.

  • Public Understanding and Engagement - to promote in Africa and around the world the relevance of developing the African origin sciences, including a series of public lectures, public performances of PAST's theatre education and outreach projects (Walking Tall and ReVerse), and offerings of diversity-themed workshops for corporations and communities.

PAST is a registered, non-profit trust with section 18a tax status in South Africa. Audited by Thompson Maher & Associates, PAST has produced unqualified audits since its inception and has a meticulous record of receiving and distributing local and international donor funds.  PAST's Board of Trustees is made up of prominent African business leaders, government representatives and scientists. The full Board meets quarterly to determine the strategic direction of the trust, while a core group of Managing Trustees meets frequently to oversee its daily conduct. PAST's small executive operational team includes the Chief Executive Officer and a Chief Educational and Scientific Strategist, who are supported by an administrative assistant. Within its educational theatre project it also employs, on a part-time basis, two directors and several cast members. PAST's Scientific Advisory Committee is led by a Chief Scientific Coordinator and a team of three internationally-recognised scientists who advise the Executive and Board on the scientific merits of the many funding proposals PAST receives for research and student training.

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