Matabeleland North province is hard hit by a shortage of science laboratories with only seven secondary schools having facilities that meet the requirements for Ordinary Level students set by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
Binga district is the worst affected as it does not have a single laboratory meeting the set standards.
The shortage of science laboratories has seen many schools scoring very low pass rates in science subjects.
The challenge has also forced Hillside Teachers College to recruit students teachers with grade “C” in science subjects at Ordinary Level, a situation which compromises the quality of the science teachers.
Currently the province only has one physics teacher who is a university graduate but a not a qualified classroom practitioner.
As a short term solution, some schools have been identified as district centres of science subjects where students from other schools are given a chance to get the exposure of a science laboratory during the school holidays.
Matabeleland North Provincial Education Director Mrs Boithalelo Mguni says although some schools have constructed the structures, they do not have running water, gas or fitted tables as required by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
“Right now we are struggling even to get a physics teacher and so far we only have one, a graduate from NUST and although he is not a qualified teacher he is doing a good job for us. They basically choose where they want to teach, I will tell you for instance that you won’t a find a chemistry teacher struggling to teach at Nyamandlovu. They will go to where there is a lab and Bulawayo wants them, South Africa wants them so we have lots of competition for that and as long as our schools are not quick to attract them in many ways even their accommodation or their whatever, they will choose where it’s best, she said.
Schools which have laboratories produce better results in science subjects and are interpreted as excelling schools despite having little or no competition.
The low pass rate in science results at Ordinary Level, the effect is that there are few students who can be enrolled for science degrees at local universities, hence derailing the STEM initiative.