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Kudos to UNESCO for promoting science learning in primary schools

21st August 2011
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At the recent climax of the countrywide petroleum products crisis, an important event also took place in the country which was hardly noticed by most of the local media outlets.

We may as well note that when Parliament is in session and various Ministries are busy presenting their budget estimates, many other happenings are relegated to the backburner by both the media and the public.

The event we are referring to which did not get the attention it deserved was the launch by UNESCO of a project in Morogoro, meant to promote science in primary schools in six regions of Tanzania. The project is known as “Kids Sky Exploration” but what it exactly does is simple to explain.

We are told the project will encourage primary schools to establish Science Clubs for the purpose of sensitizing pupils to take interest in science learning.

The Clubs will, of course, be provided with science-friendly reading materials which can easily be comprehended at the level of primary education, as well as other relevant tools. A mechanism will be put in place to facilitate networking of all the primary schools participating in this programme.

In the old days science clubs used to be encouraged in secondary schools but today few schools continue to appreciate the importance of such activities. We know too well that the focus today is on “studying” to pass examinations, even through buying examination papers and engaging in other forms of cheating -guided by the queer principle that the end justifies the means!

Why is it important to encourage kids to take interest in science at primary school or even at kindergarten level? The answer is simple. The earlier kids are introduced to the wonderful and exciting world of science the better.

Kids in the developed world, where science and scientific thinking, are part and parcel of everyday life, are clearly at an advantage as even some of the toys they play with are designed to promote interest in this vital area.

UNESCO Tanzania Executive Secretary, Prof. Elizabeth Kiondo, has hopes that the project under discussion has a potential to contribute to the production of the country’s future scientists. “Since science, technology and innovation are development catalysts in different countries, differentiating one country from another, the project should be taken seriously,” the professor is quoted to have said at the launch.

This intervention has come at time when the nation still needs the manpower to work in science-related fields as well as teaching science subjects in schools.

It was recently reported in the media that there is a district in the southern parts of Tanzania which has about 20 secondary schools but happens to have only two biology teachers. Your guess as to how the subject is taught in the district is a good as mine. And you are very wrong if you consider this one an isolated case.

While this kind of situation prevails, education experts tell us that students in secondary schools and higher learning institutions continue to avoid pursuing science subjects, partly because they consider them difficult.

But where there is no will there is no way, and where there is no interest to pursue a certain cause all sorts of reasons will be given to justify the attitude.

UNESCO has shown the way insofar as one of the strategies to nurture future scientists is concerned. We hope the pilot project, which later on can be adopted countrywide, will be a success. This can only happen if the Government takes interest in the project and give it financial backing. The ball is in the Government’s court.

Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant hmuhanika@yahoo.com

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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