‘Critical shortage of engineers in Zim’

Leonard Ncube Victoria Falls Reporter
ZIMBABWE is facing a critical shortage of engineers, a development that can be addressed if mathematics and science subjects are taught from Grade Zero, the National Manpower Advisory Council (Namaco) has said. Namaco chairperson, Commissioner Tendai Bare, said this at the Unesco Engineering Week which ended here on Friday.

Namaco was established in terms of the Manpower Act to advise the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development on any matters relating to manpower development and training. She said the solution to the shortage of engineers was to include Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem) in the school curriculum starting from Grade Zero.

Bare, who is also a public service commissioner, said the country needs engineers at every stage of development. “One of the problems is that Zimbabwe currently has a critical shortage of engineers as evidenced by the engineer to population ratio of 1: 6, 500. This is a far cry from the ratios of 1: 250 which are found in highly industrialised nations like Germany, Japan and others,” she said.

Bare said the situation has been worsened by the brain-drain the country experienced in the last decade. She said there is a need to start building a pool of engineers who can be incorporated into the country’s development agenda in line with Zim-Asset goals.

“The dearth of engineers can be traced back to the scarcity of lecturers which in turn is attributable to the lack of a pool of school leavers who both attempt and pass Mathematics and Science. Supplying competent Mathematics and Science teachers alone is inadequate,” Bare said.

“In this regard it’s promising to note that in keeping with Namaco recommendations the new draft curriculum for schools will introduce both Mathematics and Natural Sciences including Physics and we want this to start from Zero Grade.” Bare bemoaned the reduction in contributions to Zimdef by industry who are supposed to pay a one percent levy.

She said Namaco was working on a new strategy that would see Small to Medium Enterprises also contributing towards Zimdef. She said the Industry Trade Test department was in the process of testing informally trained personnel such as builders or carpenters so they could contribute to the economy.

“Zimdef has been affected by deindustrialisation and now hardly collects half a million United States dollars down from in excess of $2 million it used to collect. “This has affected resource mobilisation for training which has resulted in polytechnics diverting from their core mandate of technical training to commercial subjects to raise revenue,” said Bare.

She said in light of inadequate funding from the fiscus, Namaco was considering Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). The engineering event was held under the theme “Engineering Innovation for accelerated Infrastructural Development for Africa post 2015.”

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