Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has partnered the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) and Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) in efforts to improve Mathematics and Science education in Matabeleland North Province.
Schools in the province have perennially posted poor results, particularly in Mathematics and Science subjects at both Ordinary and Advanced Level, owing to a cocktail of factors. In an interview last week, Matabeleland North provincial education director Mrs Boithatelo Mnguni said the ministry was working hard to improve Maths and Science education in the province.
Mrs Mnguni said the partnership with the two universities was expected to equip Science and Maths teachers in the province with the requisite skills to effectively teach the subjects.
BUSE has been training Science and Maths teachers in the province under the Government’s Teacher Capacity Development programme which seeks to assist teachers earn higher qualifications.
Mrs Mnguni said Nust has been holding Maths and Science holiday camps for high school teachers and pupils in the province as part of efforts to improve the quality of science teaching.
“The first effort was to partner BUSE who took our unqualified teachers and trained them under the Teacher Capacity Development Programme. The university was operating from Fatima High School in Lupane but they have since moved and are continuing with the programme.
“We have also partnered Nust for holiday camps where Science teachers and pupils from our high schools converge on one centre for lessons with help from experts at Nust during school holidays,” she said.
Mrs Mnguni expressed hope that the partnerships with the two universities will bear fruit, as the province seeks to improve its pass rate, particularly in the two learning areas.
“We hope to see a vast improvement in our results. We have already started seeing improvement and we hope the trend will continue until we achieve exactly what we aim for,” she said.
The province recorded an 88 percent pass rate at A-level in the November 2016 Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) examinations with the lowest school posting a 55 percent. Mrs Mnguni said the poor performance in Mathematics and Science subjects by schools in the province was due to a number of factors, among them being shortage of qualified teachers.
She said the shortage of qualified teachers has seen the province relying on University graduates who do not have teaching qualifications, a development she said impacts negatively on the quality of education being provided in schools.
Last year, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education revealed that Matabeleland North province had a shortage of 78 Maths teachers and 101 Science teachers at O-level while at A-level there was a shortage of 64 Maths teachers and 132 Science teachers.
Mrs Mnguni also lamented the shortage of Science equipment and text books, pointing out that most schools in the province did not have laboratories.
“A lot of schools don’t have Science laboratories. Most of the schools have converted ordinary classrooms into laboratories but this has led to breakage of equipment due to unsuitable storage. There is a serious shortage of Science and Mathematics text books, not to mention the shortage of teachers. Most of the Science teachers that we have are university graduates who do not hold any teaching qualifications. The situation is pathetic,” she said.
Matabeleland North province is not the only province in the region that has been dogged by poor results owing to shortage of Mathematics and Science teachers.
As at last year, Matabeleland South required 81 Maths teachers and 118 Science teachers at O-level and 82 Maths and 50 Science teachers at A-level.
Bulawayo required 495 teachers at both O and A-level. The three provinces have been receiving assistance from a group of retired educationists, the Committee of Friends Trust, which has donated Maths and Science books to schools since 1997.
Mrs Mnguni acknowledged that interventions by the Trust had impacted positively on Maths and Science education in Matabeleland North. The teaching of Maths and Science has become one of Government’s priorities under the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).