Zimbabwe is now moving towards mainstreaming science and technology, science and mathematics popularly known as STEM, (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) in its education system so that it can drive its economy hinged on science and technology, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education Godfrey Gandawa said last week.
Responding to a question from Senator Damian Mumvuri whether it is now government policy that all candidates who wish to enroll for university degree studies should have ‘O’ level mathematics and science subjects, Gandawa said every country that needs to develop should be hinged on science and technology.
“It is in the best interest of the country to make sure that we develop science and technology from the lower levels of education even starting from the kindergarten,” he said.
“We have realised it as a problem that we only emphasise science and mathematics when pupils are now in secondary schools and therefore we will not be able to produce engineers, scientists, electricians and so on because science and mathematics is required in those particular fields and those are the ones that develop the nation. It is in the best interest of the country that we make sure that every student who is enrolled in university has an appreciation of science and mathematics.”
Education Minister Lazarus Dokora, said his ministry was stepping up the training of science and mathematics teachers to meet the new objective.
He said that some 5 000 teachers should be studying those disciplines by the end of the year. The government had also agreed to work on retention allowances for mathematics, science and technical vocational teachers.
Q & A:
SENATOR MUMVURI: My question is directed to the Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development. Is it Government policy now or is it just an intention that all candidates who wish to enroll for university degree studies should have ‘O’ level mathematics and science subjects?
THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF HIGHER AND TERTIARY EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT (DR. GANDAWA): I want to thank the Hon. Senator Mumvuri for a very pertinent question. Every country that needs to develop should be hinged on science and technology. Research and development should be hinged on science and technology. It is in the best interest of the country to make sure that we develop science and technology from the lower levels of education even starting from the kindergarten.
We have realised it as a problem that we only emphasise science and mathematics when pupils are now in secondary schools and therefore we will not be able to produce engineers, scientists, electricians and so on because science and mathematics is required in those particular fields and those are the ones that develop the nation. It is in the best interest of the country that we make sure that every student who is enrolled in university has an appreciation of science and mathematics.
You will realise that we have a problem of unemployment. The unemployment is actually emanating from us allowing more students to enroll in commercials and humanities because they do not have science and mathematics. The knowledge economy therefore, requires us to make sure that we create new industries and allow certain industries to die. Science and technology will develop this country if we take it seriously. I am very pleased that our sister Ministry, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has actually implemented in the new curriculum that science and technology, technical and vocational subjects becomes key. I agree and want to answer the hon. senator saying, yes, we are moving towards mainstreaming science and technology, science and mathematics popularly known as STEM, (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) in our education system so that we are able to drive the economy hinged on science and technology.
We are actually going further to say, we are going to direct our universities to reduce the number of enrolment in terms of social sciences and humanities and increase our sciences, engineering and mathematics. It will take us a very long time because we have low uptake in our engineering and science courses in universities because we have allowed our students or pupils – when I was still at school, we used to call it ‘dropping.’ I am allowed to ‘drop’ mathematics, geography or science and choose other subjects.
As a Government, we are saying that these subjects that drive the economy and shape the future of a student must be compulsory. You must have science and mathematics. However, to those who are not academically gifted, we are saying after completion of the degree, you do not have employment. Many of our graduates in sciences and mathematics are on demand everywhere, be it in the country or regionally. If you have a graduate student today, we do not have more teachers, for example in Matebeleland North, we have a couple of physics, chemistry and science teachers. Why then should we promote subjects or courses that will give us unemployment rather than promoting the sciences so that our children get employment after graduation? I thank you Mr. President.
SENATOR MLOTSHWA: Thank you Mr. President. After the presentation by the Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education Science and Technology Development, I thought of a question for the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education. In May this year, the Permanent Secretary in your Ministry visited Matebeleland South. We discovered that out of 28 schools in Matobo District, only three are teaching science subjects. It also means that only three schools have teachers in the science subjects. I think that we are lagging behind. I want to know from your Ministry, do you have a certain percentage of schools that are supposed to be teaching science subjects in a province or district? I thank you.
THE ACTING PRESIDENT: May you please ask direct questions.
THE MINISTER OF PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION (DR. DOKORA): Thank you hon. President of the Senate. I thank the hon. member for the question. I think it is not a question of saying, do you have a certain percentage of schools that should teach science. My expectation is that all schools should teach science, mathematics and technical vocational subjects.
The new curriculum is premised on this undertaking; you will ask me immediately, ‘do you have enough teachers?’ My response will also be immediate; last year we launched the Teacher Capacity Development Programme, and I spoke about it here. It is underway and I am stocking it with an additional 2 500 teachers by the end of the year so that we have 5 000 teachers studying those disciplines. Meanwhile, a trigger mechanism to our counterparts in higher and tertiary education has gone out to say the new breed they are producing for us should have these prerequisites.
Previously, teachers have enjoyed what is called Ministry Development Leave (MDL), where they were paid and went out to study and so on. I will tell you something, the employer has removed the component where teachers remain on salaries, but teachers have not stopped studying in those areas because they understand that the areas have the future. So, there will be individual effort, even at no pay, teacher capacity development and the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education Science and Technology Development and its institutions, feeding into that.
As part of the effort of mainstreaming the new curriculum, I have also obtained the necessary authority from Cabinet and it has agreed that we must work at retention allowances for the mathematics, science and technical vocational teachers. The hon. senators will remember a few weeks back in September, I had an education conference in this country, which brought in the Botswana Minister, Namibian Minister and the South African side, where our teachers are and because we are friends in the region. We are a community of Southern African Development Community (SADC). They have agreed that we share information and I am expecting to receive a complete databases of our people in those countries because we are sharing among friends.
If Botswana has an excess number of technical vocational teachers, I would want to borrow some of them and if the excess is on my side I will also want to facilitate on a Government to Government basis. We should be able to contain the matter. Yes, we are aware of the significance of these Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines and we are doing something about it. We are not just doing something but we are actually at the implementation level.