ZAMBIA: Priority studies for development identified

The Zambian government has come up with priority studies that it says could help in meeting the country's developmental needs. Presenting a ministerial statement in Zambia's House of Assembly last month, Minister of Science, Technology and Vocational Training Peter Daka said the exercise was part of the government's National Skills Development Plan from 2009 to 2011. Only students enrolled in priority areas will in future be state-supported.

The Science Minister said students who take up studies designated as a national priority would receive government bursaries. "For the medium 2009 to 2011, a study was undertaken by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on behalf of the Ministry which highlighted the areas where the country needed to focus its skills development programmes, and this was the basis on which programmes on the priority list were selected," the minister said.

"The priority programmes cover the tourism, manufacturing, construction, mining, health, and information communication technology sectors."

The minister added that the bursary scheme applies to those enrolled at state instructions only. He said the objectives of the bursary scheme are, among others, to encourage female students to take up skills training in traditionally male dominated courses and to promote critical skills for national development.

The Minister said the National Skills Development Plan would be revised and reviewed regularly through labour needs assessments to be done every three years.

"In line with these strategic changes, government will desist from supporting students pursuing training in skills areas that are not necessarily a national priority," the Minister added. He said this new strategy is being piloted at selected institutions with the view to it being fully operational by 2012.

More than 1,400 students are expected to be sponsored this year. "It is important that students wishing to access a government bursary apply for admission in programmes classified as priority. Each institution under the ministry has been informed of the priority skill areas and students can obtain this information from the training institutions."

Daka said 47% of Zambia's population is under the age of 15, creating an urgent need for skills training.

In 2006 Zambia came up with a 2006-2010 development plan that fell short of its goals mainly because of funding problems. The plan identified priorities such as training researchers, improving working conditions to keep scientific talent in Zambia, and providing tax breaks to encourage the private sector to invest in research and development.

Under the plan, Zambia was to train 308 scientists to postgraduate level and refurbish 287 laboratories and lecture theatres in schools and universities by 2010.