GOVERNMENT says it is streamlining the implementation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiative and focusing on infrastructure and manpower development as opposed to sponsoring individuals.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister, Professor Amon Murwira said STEM implementation must be beneficial to the country at large rather than individuals.
Prof Murwira last week revealed that Government was scrapping the funding of STEM Advanced Level scholarships but would continue funding pupils already on the programme.
In an interview yesterday, Prof Murwira said the STEM revolution continues but with some changes.
“As a Ministry we want to make sure STEM progresses. The way it will move is such that we are going to support the teaching of science by sharpening the teachers, by sharpening apprenticeships, by sharpening where we can, laboratories.
If I put a lab, it’s like buying a bus, it would be used by more than one person, if you sponsor one person let’s say for $4 000 and sponsor a lab for $4 000 which one is more beneficial?” asked Prof Murwira.
“Number two, payments that were made irregularly we will not repeat or continue, in the interest of the people and country and we do that with a lot of humility and respect of the people of this country.
We cannot have one pupil paying $4 000 per term and another $500 per term, the question would be why is that pupil worth eight people. We can’t repeat that. In actual fact, it’s a scandal”.
He said STEM is critical in the industrialisation and modernisation drive of the 21st century hence it cannot be done away with.
“So let it be got very clearly that this Ministry supports STEM completely because we have no choice, science, technology, engineering and mathematics are the drivers of industrialisation. But the way we implement it must be beneficial to the country, it must be more people centred than individual centred,” he said.
Minister Murwira said his ministry was sticking to its mandate of manpower development.
“We are trying to be streamlined in our action and this Ministry must not try to do over reach. It is involved in training manpower because everybody teaching in primary and secondary schools is a product of this ministry.
“There was controversy when the STEM programme started, so why should we continue with controversy? So the issue basically is not to say STEM is bad. STEM is good and we are trying to strengthen it. It’s just the mode of implementation that changes from time to time,” said Prof Murwira.
He said the STEM initiative was not a scheme for the disadvantaged hence beneficiaries were not entitled to free university education.
“When STEM was launched it was an overall scheme not really targeted for the poor but anyone wishing to do sciences, even my son would qualify when I can afford to pay his fees. I don’t think it’s fair, because this disadvantages a less privileged pupil in the rural areas.
“If there are parents who are disadvantaged who happened to be in STEM we will see what we can do with those students, just like any other student but it cannot be an overall policy to say everyone who was sponsored will have their university fees paid when we know that some of them are from rich backgrounds,” he said.
He added: “People do sciences not because there is a STEM programme but because sciences are important. Let’s get that clear and we encourage parents to urge their children to take up science subjects in high school.”
Minister Murwira said the money used for STEM funding would be channelled towards manpower development in colleges and universities.
The Minister said the ministry was encouraging STEM at university level through innovation hubs meant to enable higher education institutions to translate their knowledge into goods and services.
Prof Murwira said Government was starting a loan scheme where all facing fees challenges at university would benefit.
He said they would soon publish results from the STEM beneficiaries who sat for their Advanced Level public examinations last November.