At the just-ended 15th Zanu-PF National People’s Conference in Victoria Falls, Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo made various potentially far-reaching remarks on the state of higher education in the country. He advocated for the adoption of the science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) model and made a case for bigger funding for the sector warning that not doing so threatened national security.
“Lack of Government funding of higher and tertiary education science and technology development has become an untold threat to the consolidation of the people’s power through Zim-Asset,” he said.
In the months after his appointment to the brief, the minister has been insistent on STEM, highlighting its importance and the general need for an overhaul of the country’s higher education, science and technology development sector.
In August, during an expo he said that it was not “possible to produce an educated person who has no Mathematics at O-Level”. “We want to invest a lot in science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM), but I’m not sure whether we’ve put our money where our mouths are. The budget allocation isn’t enough. It’s not possible to achieve objectives if we’re not showing commitment in budgetary terms,” he was quoted as saying.
“About 52 percent of students at our universities are doing humanities while 29 percent are doing commercials, leaving only 19 percent to do STEM.
This shows that higher and tertiary institutions have deviated from their mandate,” said Prof Moyo.
Addressing Nust teaching and non-teaching staff members during a familiarisation meeting at the institution, in October, Prof Moyo said enrolment at the institution should show its area of specialty which is, science and technology.
“The National University of Science and Technology was set up in 1991 as a science and technology institution. One would have thought by now that tradition has been well established and speaks for itself.
“Manifestly so, that you don’t look for it; that it is even supported by numbers. But when you look at the number the Vice-Chancellor shared with us, if you look at the 2015 enrolment you have 8 555 students and out of that 49 percent are sciences and engineering, 42 percent commerce and nine percent is social sciences. Commerce and social sciences constitute 51 percent.
“This is a serious talking position point given Nust’s history, its founding mandate not withstanding its challenges and this is not a matter whose implementation we should continue to suspend.
“It is no longer desirable and no longer in the national interest. We really need to go for the mandate not only today but when we come for graduation. There should be no issue that makes it impossible to happen. It should happen. If there are issues that make it difficult, we have to talk.”
The minister said higher and tertiary education will only be for those with “STEM”, a call, he said, was also supported by President Mugabe.
“Everyone is now talking about STEM. Everyone now is talking about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as the necessary foundation for all education especially higher and tertiary education. No STEM no education,” said Prof Moyo.
He added: “You can claim that you are literate because you can spell your name, you get a Grade Seven certificate for that. You cannot claim that you are educated because you have been taught to memorise other people who wrote some things centuries ago.
“That can’t be education. You can only be educated when equipped with fundamental skills that make you useful in society.
“You cannot be useful in society when you don’t have STEM skills. You can’t even be useful to yourself.
“That is why his Excellency has been talking about STEM. Nust is supposed to be a STEM centre of excellence.”