The 5 308 STEM students were drawn from 214 schools.
Government — through the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund — paid tuition, boarding and examination fees since 2016 to promote Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Physical Science and Biology when Professor Jonathan Moyo was still in charge of the Higher Education Ministry.
Government has scrapped the scholarship scheme, and Zimdef now supports tertiary students, teacher training courses, building science and technology infrastructure.
Higher Education Minister Professor Amon Murwira said, “We are still analysing the results but the failure rate is too high for sponsored students. We do not expect failure from a sponsored programme.”
He attributed the dismal results to a poor student selection criteria.
“About US$10 million was used in the 2016 intake that sat for examinations in 2017. It’s risky business to think we are sponsoring scientists when they are not. If someone studies science subjects, nothing will stop them from diverting to economics, sociology and many other programmes.
“We are continuing with the STEM programme but the scholarship remains suspended as funds will be spent on those in tertiary institutions as they have a clear career path.”
Prof Murwira said Government had embarked on a science training programme for teachers in secondary schools, with US$500 million budgeted for construction of science laboratories.
“Our policy is inclusive education, meaning inclusion of as many people as possible and not a few selected students,” he said.
“The ministry has asked Mkoba and Masvingo Teachers’ Colleges as well as the Joshua Mqabuko College in Gwanda to start training secondary school teachers because they have state-of-the-art laboratories.
“One teacher can share the knowledge with many students, whereas teaching one student whom you are not sure whether he/she will pass or not is a problem.
“There is commitment to support underprivileged rural schools through construction of laboratories in eight rural provinces at a cost of US$500 million.
‘‘This is part of our STEM programme and the Primary and Secondary Education Ministry will identify the schools.” – Sunday Mail