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By Brenda Zulu

The Zambian government has not done enough to strengthen science and technology education, according to Dr. Dennis Wanchinga, executive director of the National Science and Technology Council, which wishes to undertake an evidence-based assessment of Zambian schools.

“It is the absence of the best basic teaching aids for teaching science that is missing in schools,” Wanchinga said in an interview. “Pupils have never seen the chemical reactions. The laboratories are poorly equipped. We are not teaching much to develop our own local material for teaching science and depend on foreign material.”

While Lewis Mwape, a physics teacher at Matero Girls Secondary School in Lusaka, said the expense of equipment limits classroom experiments, he makes due with what he has.

“As a teacher, I improvise in some experiments, like on the demonstration of a wave in a ripple tank, and have been using the learning channel on DStv for pupils to learn about science and mathematics,” he said.

Zambia has been experiencing a “brain drain” effect, Wanchinga explained, with secondary school science teachers migrating to other countries for better pay.

“With the use of ICTs, there is need for the scientists in the diaspora to be involved in the country’s development by contributing their knowledge through distance learning and the use of e-learning,” he said. “…We need to develop a good network through which schools can utilize ICT, which is becoming an important tool in delivering e-learning in education.”

Currently, 0.2 percent of the national budget is allocated to the Ministry of Science and Technology, which Wanchinga said is not sufficient. However, the Lagos Plan of Action by Heads of State has agreed that the ministry must receive at least 1 percent of national budget funds.

To improve the situation in schools, Zambia needs a strong policy framework anchored by the highest governmental office, Wanchinga said, and training qualified teachers and creating specialized education centers in science and technology must be placed atop the government’s agenda.

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