Tanzania: Pact to Promote Girls in Science Fields

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TANZANIA is one of the countries to benefit from a new partnership signed here yesterday to train girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

The partnership, between CRDF Global, and Bunengi Foundation is a comprehensive multi-stage programme which will begin by providing scholarships for top girl students to pursue STEM graduate degrees in US universities, among other things.

Addressing the 2nd Bunengi STEM African First Ladies Roundtable, which officially over saw the announcement of the partnership, President Jakaya Kikwete said it is a fact that gender parity exists in Maths, and science in both developing and developed countries. But, he added that the gap is wider in developing countries.

He said that like many of those countries, Tanzania still lags behind in terms of producing a significant number of females in the said fields. He termed the phenomenon as being historical, noting that prior to independence, Tanzania had two schools, to educate clerks and chiefs respectively.

He noted that the business of education was left to Christian missionaries whose mission was evangelization and not purely to educate locals to be able to take firm control of their environment. He also informed that the country had three engineers and four doctors at independence unimpressive still-they were all men.

He informed the audience that a lot had since been done since independence with both genders increasing exponentially following deliberate investment in education.

“But, we still have big shortages of scientists, engineers and mathematicians. For example, we have 7000 registered engineers, and I understand there is only one lady contractor among them.”

He said that due to the existing gaps, and with the view to build a base, the government had trained more teachers for science fields and procuring more equipment, deliberately providing more scholarships to girls, free sponsorship for those pursuing medicine courses and guaranteeing employment for them.

Apart from ensuring ward secondary schools that increased students from 524,000 in 2005 to 1.9m currently, he said they had also ensured that every secondary school has a laboratory.

He also said that there has already been achievement of gender parity in primary schools, though there were still challenges they are fighting like school pregnancies, forced marriages among others. He added that the challenge in existence is that the government now has to scale up vocational training institutions to cater for the phenomenal increase in enrolment in secondary schools.

“This is so that we have a strong base for science education and see more students opting for them,” he said. Thanking Bunengi Foundation for the initiative, he urged first ladies present to work towards fighting situations that stop African girls from advancing in the said fields.

Speaking earlier, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said that the continent’s strategic plans emphasize gender parity and technological development as drivers of the development agenda.

CRDF Global President and CEO Cathy Campbell said they have chosen to concentrate on women scientists because they feel they hold the key to a great leap in Africa’s development.

CRDF Global is an independent, nonprofit organization established in 1995 to promote international scientific and technical collaboration through grants, technical resources, training and services.

Bunengi Foundation was formed by Bunengi Group, an infrastructure and mining project development company that operates throughout Africa that is women owned and led.

The Bunengi-initiated African First Ladies Discussion held alongside the UN General Assembly in New York, is an annual event and premier forum for First Ladies and business executives supporting the development of the African girl child in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.