The Sunday Mail
“There is need to equip learners with knowledge skills and values that guarantees economic growth and increased opportunities for employment creation, well-rounded citizens who are relevant nationally and competitive globally.”
This was part of a speech by President Mugabe as he launched the Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programme.
The programme is meant to promote the uptake of science technology, engineering and mathematics and is being promoted through the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development.
Experts maintain that the fastest growing and highest earning careers in the future will be in STEM fields.
Sustainable socio-economic transformation can be driven by investing in STEM disciplines.
The study of STEM subjects will result in the industrialisation of the economy and will also create employment.
In an effort to accrue the benefits that are associated with STEM, Government has since gone into overdrive as it seeks to promote this noble idea that will empower Zimbabweans to become globally competitive.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo announced that free education will be offered to all pupils in public schools who will register for science subjects when they enrol for Advanced level this year.
Government will pay for their full school and boarding fees.
The ministry has since launched a multimedia outreach programme to encourage pupils who took their Ordinary Level examinations in 2015 and attained grade “C” or better in Mathematics, Biology, Physics and Chemistry to take a combination of the STEM subjects at “A” Level.
As part of the efforts to encourage schools and students to take up STEM, high schools that register full Lower Six STEM classes this year will stand a chance to win a state-of-the-art bus and a cash prize of $100 000.
Lower Six students who register for STEM subjects in 2016 will stand a chance to win a trip of a life time to Microsoft and other Silicon Valley STEM companies in the United States of America.
According to Prof Moyo, 10 winners will travel to the United States while 100 winners will walk away with a state-of-the-art STEM laptop. The same number of winners will also get state-of-the-art iPads.
Prof Moyo called on those who are eligible to participate in “this exciting opportunity by ensuring that they register for a combination of Mathematics, Biology, Physics and Chemistry for their Lower Six in 2016”.
“In the same vein, parents or guardians and schools with affected students are encouraged to provide their parental and institutional support respectively, to ensure that this great opportunity is not missed,” he said.
Prof Moyo said the objective of the multimedia outreach programme was to increase the number of STEM students who will enrol in STEM degree programmes at the country’s universities in 2018 and to stimulate interest in Mathematics, Biology, Physics and Chemistry as STEM subjects.
He said the programme will promote STEM careers in response to Zim-Asset’s human capital objectives and to develop and strain STEM skills that are critically needed for the country’s new industrialization thrust.
“In September 2013 and as a backdrop to this multimedia initiative, His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe, Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe, introduced the STEM revolution through the merging of the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education with that of Science and Technology Development, with the latter becoming the foundation of higher and tertiary education in the country,” said Prof Moyo.
According to Prof Moyo, employees and employers will need to utilise STEM skills in industrialising the economy. The programme will also address issues of unemployment and will also empower young people through the promotion of science and innovation. Government has embarked on a defined path to promote industrialisation and beneficiation and value addition of minerals as aspects of the economic blueprint, Zim-Asset.
President Mugabe is in the forefront in the promotion of industrialization of the continent.
He has a clear vision of having Africa industrialised by 2063.
While he was the Sadc chairperson between 2014 and 2015, President Mugabe put the industrialization agenda on the map and throughout his tenure worked under a theme which included industrialization, value addition and beneficiation.
STEM is an education grouping used throughout the world.
The programme brought great benefits to students in the United States and Australia where young adults are equipped with the necessary skills for the economy of the future.
MBCA recently flighted adverts on the Zimbabwe Junior Achievement website for scholarships to students under the age of 21 who wish to study for their first degrees during 2016 in the fields of science technology, engineering and mathematics.
According to the advertisement, the minimum “A” Level points to qualify are 10 points for females and 12 for males.
STEM candidature, pass rate improves
Government’s initiative to promote the uptake of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects seem to be paying off after a marked improvement in the pass rate and candidature in last year’s “A” level examinations, statistics released by the Zimbabwe Examination Council (ZimSec) show.
A total of 20 917 school and private candidates sat for Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology in November last year as compared to 18 023 candidates who sat for the same subjects in 2014, showing a average increase of 37 percent.
The combined average pass rate also improved from 57,7 percent in 2014 to 66 percent in 2015 with Chemistry getting the most improved pass rate while Physics had the most improvement in candidature.
This is surely a step in the right direction considering that the uptake of science subjects has been dwindling in preceding years.
The candidature and enrolment is expected to improve further this year after Government started the STEM campaign through incentivising those who register for the subjects.
According to the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development; those who sat for “O” level exams in 2015 and got a grade “C” or better in Physics, Chemistry, Biology or Mathematics will have their school fees paid by the ministry if they register a combination of these subjects at “A” level at any public school in 2016.
The ministry has also introduced a lot more prizes such as trips, laptops, cash and buses for schools and students who take up the subjects. Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Dr Lazarus Dokora said more measures will be put in place to boost candidature for STEM subjects.
“Measurers are underway to boost the candidature for Maths and Science subjects at “A” Level in order to increase the outflow into higher and tertiary education for the realization of value addition and beneficiation in line with Zim Asset,” he said.
Zim Asset prioritizes value addition and beneficiation as the two factors are key in boosting local production and increasing exports as well as creating employment.
Nonetheless, the most worrying trend in higher learning is that the population with STEM qualifications stands at a mere 0.03 percent.
Making a presentation at Zanu-PF people’s conference in December last year, the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development said it is impossible to fully achieve value addition and beneficiation without STEM.
“Value addition and beneficiation are neither possible nor achievable without STEM. The compelling point is that it is not possible to value add, beneficiate and industrialise without STEM.
“ No STEM no economic development.”
In as much as the STEM programme is a good initiative that could see Zim-Asset’s goals being expedited, stakeholders in the education sector have expressed mixed feelings over the programme. STEM stands for Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Professor Jonathan Moyo recently launched a multimedia outreach programme to encourage students who took their Ordinary Level examinations in 2015 to enrol for STEM subjects at Advanced level in 2016 if they got grade “C” or better in Physics, Chemistry, Biology or Mathematics.
The programme has become topical among educationists and the general citizenry of Zimbabwe.
Mr Peter Kwaira, an education expert said the programme is very noble and is a step in the right direction.
Mr Kwaira was speaking during a workshop organised by Zimche and the University of Zimbabwe running under the theme “Harmonising higher and tertiary education in Zimbabwe.”
He also added that the country needs education that contributes meaningfully to the current situation.
According to Mr Kwaira, education must be relevant to current circumstances.
The STEM subjects will cultivate a culture of problem-solving among the students and general populace.
Mr Kwaira also said the programme must not be seen as a new initiative. Rather, it must be viewed as an initiative that seeks to emphasise the importance of practical subjects.
He said the programme will have a number of benefits.
“The intended beneficiaries of this programme are very lucky. The programme came at a time when the nation is on a mission to achieve economic recovery,” he said.
However, the president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Dr Takavafira Zhou does not share the same sentiments.
“The idea in theory is very good but falls short when it comes to practice,” he argued without shedding more light.
He highlighted that the responsible authorities did not make enough consultations. “The problem is that there was not much consultations done with the stakeholders – students, parents and teachers,” Dr Zhou alleged.
He said Government needs to make use of tertiary institutions that carry out research and come up with a comprehensive and pragmatic document that is relevant in meeting the needs of all the stakeholders involved.
“There is a gap between the researcher and the Government and it needs to be dealt with,” Dr Zhou suggested.
It is expected that the STEM programme will develop skills that are critically required in pursuing the country’s industrialisation thrust.