Policy shift leaves thousands stranded
Thousands of aspiring teachers who had secured places at various training colleges for next year’s intakes are likely to fall by the wayside after the colleges made a U-turn and added science among compulsory subjects. During interviews for 2015 intakes, colleges had Mathematics and English as prerequisites, but it has emerged that the University of Zimbabwe department of teacher education, with the approval of the Zimbabwe Council for Higher education (zimche), instructed colleges to make science compulsory.
zimche is mandated with evaluating and assessing higher education programmes to ensure they meet the country’s training needs while maintaining world class standards.
Some colleges have reportedly started advising students who had secured places of the latest development.
By late yesterday several colleges had sent messages to the students some of whom were shocked with the development.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Deputy Minister Dr Godfrey Gandawa confirmed that at policy level they were working on including science as one of the compulsory subjects.
However, he said extensive consultations were still being done as a lot of students would be affected by the policy shift.
“We are still in consultation with the Department of Teacher Education about that issue because it affects lots of people,” he said.
College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe president, Mr David Dzatsunga, confirmed that colleges had started advising students on the latest move, with others urging those effected to enrol for bridging programmes.
He said while they supported the need to churn out more teachers with scientific knowledge, the U-turn by the colleges had been drastic.
“Most colleges have received that directive,” Mr Dzatsunga said.
“A number of them (colleges) had done their interviews for the January intake but are now informing those who had secured places that the position has changed.”
He added: “For our education to be of great quality, science needS particular focus. We lost a lot of teachers during the time our economy was in tatters and it is high time we start training students with science to develop our country.”
Mr Dzatsunga said enough ground work needed to be done before implementing the policy.
“While we support the idea of having science as a compulsory subject, the policy is being implemented drastically,” he said.
“They have to ensure there is enough infrastructure and equipment to train those people because at the end of the day the policy might fail to be effective because of the way it is implemented.”
Chairperson of the department of teaching at UZ, Dr Attwel Mamvuto, said while he was aware of the circular they sent to colleges, he could not comment without approval from the University Registrar who was said to be out office.
Colleges have been churning out a few science teachers with most of them leaving the country after graduating.
The situation has been compounded by the shortage of funds for teacher training institutions specialising in the discipline such as Hillside and Mutare Teachers Colleges.
The uptake of sciences in schools has been low, particularly among the girl child and efforts are being made to encourage students to take up the subjects and curb the belief that sciences are a preserve for male students and only the intellectually gifted.