ZIMBABWE: Science and maths teacher training threat

Zimbabwean lawmakers have warned of a science and mathematics crisis in the country due to a dire shortage of funds for teacher training institutions specialising in the two disciplines.

A report by the parliamentary committee on higher and tertiary education said the funding problem has sparked a brain drain from training institutions for the two subjects. The committee recommended the development of a retention scheme to avoid a skills exodus, which legislators argue would be costly for the nation as Zimbabwe would end up training personnel for other countries.

"This is a worrying development since these colleges are strategic in producing more science and maths teachers," said the report. It argued that the 2011 under-funding in capital projects further added to the problem of the shortage of these critical teachers.

The report continued: "Hence one of the 2011 objectives of increasing the intake of science and maths student teachers will not be achieved".

The report argued that key teacher colleges such as Hillside and Mutare, which specialise in science and maths teacher training, were under-funded and that the shortage of these teachers underscored the importance of the colleges.

It said the funding crisis would also reduce access to tertiary education for disadvantaged students intending to study sciences and mathematics.

On science alone, it said, besides inadequate budgetary support the problem has been compounded by the absence of donor support for the country's science and technology ministry which, despite being five years old, does not even have boardroom furniture.

The ministry was said to have submitted a bid of more than US$20 million for promoting science initiatives, but was allocated only US$5 million, translating to 0.00062% of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

"This implies the allocation is below regional standards: SADC [Southern African Development Community] is encouraging national expenditure on research and development to be 1% of GDP by 2015 and the ministry is highly unlikely to meet SADC 2015 targets," concluded the report.