TENDAI BHEBE IN BULAWAYO
Government is concerned by the low uptake of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related programmes by girls and women in the country, Business Times can report.
According to Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, who spoke on Tuesday this week at a post Cabinet media briefing in the capital Harare, the population of learners taking up STEM stood at 44%.
Out of that, 22% were girls.
This was revealed by Benard Mazambane, education director for the Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, who spoke at the international women’s day celebrations in the city of Bulawayo.
He said there were various barriers hindering girls from participating in STEM.
“There are issues of masculinity stereotypes. Parents, communities and influential people often associate STEM with boys.
“However, gaps between boys and girls in STEM remain large. Even when girls perform as well as their male peers in STEM tests, many lose interest and do not pursue advanced courses or careers in STEM,” Mazambane said.
He added: “There is fear, lack of confidence and scepticism by girls towards STEM careers which are vastly outnumbered by male peers. Lack of female role models that have made it up who cheer on and speak positively to spur the females and who are grateful to the few that have arisen to give.”
Cindirella Ndlovu, co-founder of non-profit organisation Greenhut, said opportunities await young girls in the science world, hence there were many learners who should grab available opportunities.
Meanwhile, national statistical agency Zimstat has said women were underrepresented in STEM.
“Data shows that the gender gap in access to ICTs still exists, and this keeps women from realising the full potential of ICT. Because women are under-represented in STEM education, the ripple effect is felt also in the areas of work where women are also under-represented,” Zimstat said in a statement.
Zimstat said during the 2022 population and housing census 22 % were women who studied engineering, manufacturing and construction while 32 % studied ICTs.