Vice President, Kembo Mohadi, says while Zimbabwe is among the top most literate people on the African continent, the requisite knowledge and skills to be innovators is lacking.

The Presidential and National Scholarship arrangement between Zimbabwe and the Russian Federation which enables locals to study sciences in the East European economic giant is part of government efforts to bridge the skills gap in the country.

Bidding farewell to 47 students who left the country this Saturday afternoon for Russia and Greece, Vice President Mohadi says the technical skills acquired by the students in Russia will also be key as Zimbabwe transforms itself from the ravages of Western imposed sanctions.

“We have around 98 percent literacy in Zimbabwe, among the highest on the African continent but in spite of this, we lack skills. We need these students to acquire the knowledge and skills to innovate so that we can produce and beneficiate everything we have here in Zimbabwe,” said VP Mohadi.

With only eight female students making up the contingent, the Vice President Mohadi directed the department of Presidential and National Scholarships and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to ensure that more girls are part of the programme.

“I have noticed that out of all the students that are leaving, only eight are females and the rest are male students. This is a situation that must be addressed so that we have more female students going than males. When you educate a girl child you have educated a nation but when you educate a boy, you have educated an individual,” highlighted VP Mohadi.

Executive Director, Presidential and National Scholarships, Cde Chris Mushohwe, said the arrangement with the Russian Federation seeks to provide a platform for Zimbabwe to enhance its industrialisation agenda.

“If you look at the areas that these students are going to study you will realise there are no humanities. It is all sciences including engineering, science and technology, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, oil and gas exploration and extraction as well as mineral resources. This is part of the agreement we have with Russia that the students will specialise in key and strategic areas for our industrialisation agenda,” said Cde Mushohwe.

Counsellor Russian Embassy, Iliyas Madiev, pledged the Russian government’s commitment to ensuring that the programme grows bigger to accommodate more students.

“We are going to continue with this programme and we have more than 70 scholarship programmes for next year,” said Madiev.

Sixteen more students, whose documents are still being processed, are expected to be in Russia before the end of the year.