1 March 2014

Zimbabwe: U.S $10 Million Boost for Science Education

About 2 400 formal secondary schools countrywide will be equipped with latest laboratory equipment by April this year under a US$10 million donor-supported programme. Each of the 2 336 secondary schools in the country will receive a set of the equipment, while those with bigger enrolments will be given an extra set.

Each kit comprises 186 different items for biology, chemistry and physics, 42 chemicals and other consumables, shelving racks and storage trays and is worth at least US$ 4 000.

About 5 000 science teachers and 100 education officers will also be trained in the use and maintenance of the equipment.

Officially launching the second phase of the programme known as the Education Transition Fund (ETF) in Harare yesterday, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora said the objectives of this second phase was to enhance the quality of science education in Zimbabwe at both Ordinary and Advanced Levels.

The first phase of ETF, now known as Education Development Fund, saw all primary and secondary schools in the country receiving textbooks for all major subjects.

Commenting on the second phase of the programme, Minister Dokora said the enrolment and success rate of science education was pathetic at the moment as most of the learning lacked practicals due to lack of equipment.

Minister Dokora said statistics from the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council showed that 20 922 pupils sat for biology examinations at Ordinary Level, 2 739 for chemistry and 2 408 also for physics examinations.

About 280 000 pupils sat for Ordinary Level examinations throughout the country.

"Despite Government's investments through the Zim-Science project, the teaching and learning of science and the consequent performance of learners have continued to be affected by many challenges including inadequate resources for effective practical activities, shortage of trained science teachers and inappropriate teaching methodologies," said Minister Dokora.

Minister Dokora urged schools to make use of the equipment.

Making reference to the computer project, Minister Dokora said only 1 333 students sat for computer studies against 8 300 computers that are in schools.

EDF representative Mr Peter Taylor from the Department for International Development said the donors remained committed to assisting the education sector in Zimbabwe.

He said between 2012 and 2016, they would collectively contribute over U$100 million to the education sector.

"Today is a reminder that regardless of political and other differences between governments and countries, development partners such as Britain, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway, European Union and OSISA (Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa) remain committed to working to improve the life chances of the poorest people in Zimbabwe and around the world," he said.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) representative Mr Reza Hossaini, whose organisation was administering the fund, said these kits would not only bring back the enthusiasm to learn science among students but also strengthened practical appreciation of science.

He said on the teacher's side, these tools would also bring back the pride of teaching science as they were equipped with the necessary tools to do their job better.

"Any country that seeks to develop its economy should prioritise science and technology and there is no better way of doing this than to begin at the school level," said Mr Hossaini.

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