Science education crucial to Africa’s development

First world nations have ‑ through their control of science ‑ developed the potential to enhance the human environment, increase potential and the standard of living of their citizens. They have used science education as a vehicle to achieve their developmental goals.

It is sad to note that most developing nations shun science education and as a result, they are paying a high price. They are incapacitated in their ability to reduce poverty and develop. For instance, most schools in countries across the African continent do not have science laboratories; they do not have qualified science educators and they do not have e-learning centres, and this is hindering progress.
Science educator, Farai Chinzou, says intolerance of science education is causing most problems that are affecting the African continent.
He explains: “In the health sector, most equipment is antiquated and this is compromising the health delivery systems in Africa. In Southern Africa, there is a shortage of pathologists, who perform autopsies. This shortage leads to unnecessary loss of life to treatable diseases.
“Lack of epidemiological updates and detection mechanisms is also hampering the prevention of diseases and methods of controlling them.”
Chinzou goes on to say: “One of the problems that Africa is facing is that she is a recipient of technology that is dumped by first world countries. This technology is usually treated as donations and some of it is obsolete and needs a lot of money in maintenance cost thereby bleeding the fiscus of African budgets.”
Accordingly, reducing the gap in science education reduces individual poverty and encourages economic growth. Therefore, African countries should popularise science education as a panacea to problems facing the continent and as an important field that can improve human life.
Chinzou says: “Science education is a game changer in our socio-economical development and support should be rendered towards further training and research.”
The supremacy of science the world over is evidenced in every field. In fact, so great is its importance for man and society that the present-day people live in an “age of science”.
Canon Wilson, a famous educationist in 1867, in support of science education wrote, “Science teaches what evidence is, what proof is.”
Ultimately, the main objective of imparting science education should be to provide a unique training in observation and reasoning. Practically, people live in a world of scientific discoveries. So, science education cannot be neglected since it can offer Africans the ability to access a wealth of knowledge and information, which will contribute to an overall understanding of how and why things work like they do.  
However, in a bid to develop science education in the continent, there is a need for political will and strong science policies.
Shingirirayi Ngano, a science educator, says: “In the continent, more emphasis should be thrust in developing science education. African governments and all societal stakeholders should lobby for the development of sciences. They should ensure that all training institutions are equipped with materials that enhance science education. Honestly, training institutions should have libraries, e-learning centres, science laboratories, qualified science laboratory technicians and motivated science teachers.”
Chinzou goes on to say: “To successfully impart science education, governments in different African countries should improve science facilities in schools around Africa and initiate programmes that challenge African learners to do scientific projects. Libraries and science laboratories must be equipped with relevant books and learning aids to help learners to have hands-on experience and a deeper understanding on science issues.”
Organisations in the continent should support government initiatives. For instance, they can acquire the necessary resources to be used in laboratories.
“African governments should [embark on] a science awareness campaign; help to distribute scientific knowledge using available means such as media and encourage schools ‑ especially rural schools ‑ to invite successful science practitioners at special events,” Chinzou says.
Policies are a crucial tool that can enhance the serious adoption of science education in the continent. Governments and players in the science sector should formulate policies, frameworks and programmes that motivate youngsters to take science issues seriously.
“Africa must come up with clear cut policies that support the development of science education if the continent is to seriously lobby for science education.
“Also, people who head fields such as Information and Communication Technology, Mathematics, Geography, Chemical engineering, Physics, Medicine, Agriculture, Mining and Mechanical engineering should come together and form a science education trust,” says Ngano.
Emancipating women to increase the female/male ratio ‑ especially at tertiary level education with a strong bias towards sciences ‑ is also an effective way of promoting science education in the continent.
Without doubt, science education is the engine that can drive the development process of the African continent; it has all the necessary ingredients that are required to transform the fortunes of the continent economically and socially.
Consequently, the absence of science education in the continent is the same as the absence of mortar when building a house. Accordingly, African governments must embrace science education as a tool to effectively develop the continent.
 

May 2013
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