Pamela Shumba, Senior Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund has invested more than $9 million for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics initiative, with more than 10 000 students benefiting in 2016 and 2017.
Zimdef chief executive officer Mr Fredrick Mandizvidza yesterday told members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development and officials from different universities at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) that the programme was running smoothly.
He said so far Zimdef has invested about $9,2 million for the STEM initiative.
A total of 5 136 Lower Six pupils, Mr Mandizvidza said, benefited in 2016 and the fees paid last year was about $4,6 million while the administration expenses amounted to about $2, 8 million.
“The total amount paid was $7 333 274,42. For 2017, the number of Upper Six students that have benefited so far is 5 064. Fees paid amounted to $1 739 707,96 while the administration costs were $69 258,22. The total amount paid was $1 808 966,18,” said Mr Mandizvidza.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee is on a national tour to assess the projects that are being funded by Zimdef at State universities and polytechnics.
Mr Mandizvidza said by the end of 2017, Zimdef is expected to enrol plus or minus 5 000 Lower Six pupils and pay more than $5 million in fees.
Mr Mandizvidza reiterated that STEM was not a rescue financial package for the underprivileged but a merit based initiative catering for pupils who have talent in the foundational subjects for STEM university programmes.
The subjects are Mathematics, Physics, Biology and Chemistry.
“It’s not just the learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, but it’s the practical integration of these foundational courses to unleash scientific solutions to current and future problems faced by society.
“The vision of an industrialised and modernised Zimbabwe has prompted the STEM initiative as a key driver of our education system,” said Mr Mandizvidza.
He added that other countries have already leveraged on STEM to pursue the four industrial revolution, also known as the industrial revolution 4.0, yet Zimbabwe remains tucked in at the tail end where there is no wealth creation to talk about.
Every institution, Mr Mandizvidza said, must play their part if the country is going to move forward as a proud and renowned player in new product development critical in the game of global economics, trade and commerce.
“Future generations will not forgive us if we fail to equip them with digital capabilities in preparation for a knowledge-driven digitalised future.
“This, our generation will not escape being cursed for historical irresponsibility if we recklessly abandon the current and future learners, leaving them to wander into paths of insignificance by squandering opportunities presented to humanity by a STEM education,” said Mr Mandizvidza.
He implored the committee to continue lobbying Parliament for more resources to be channelled towards the country’s institutions of higher learning to enable them to undertake research programmes for the benefit of industries and the communities.
The committee and the Zimdef officials started the tour on Tuesday and have so far visited Chinhoyi University of Technology, Kwekwe Polytechnic, Bulawayo Polytechnic and Hotel St Patricks in Bulawayo.
They also visited Lupane State University, Nust, JM Nkomo Polytechnic and Gwanda University at Epoch Mine in Insiza.