Positive actions taken

All countries surveyed have long recognized the value of education for the production of appropriate human resources to carry out the diverse task of development, including utilization of science and technology. To ensure that the disadvantaged situation of girls in science and technology is addressed, a number of policies, strategies and legislations have been put in place in the different countries by the ministries of education, the Government, donor agencies, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). These actions have affected the social attitudes of students, parents and others towards scientific education and technical/vocational education. Most of these measures were not designed to address gender issues in science and technical education but they have had a positive influence in these areas.

A number of innovative actions are underway to remedy the situation such as national policies, compulsory science and technology education, positive discrimination for girls, changes in curriculum and textbooks as well as awareness-raising actions.

National policies and initiatives

Fundamental for the integration of women in the developmental process is the political intervention and support of the government. The issue of gender imbalance has become a topic for discussion at all national fora and national policies have been developed to promote equal access of females to resources for the enhancement of women's full participation in economic development. All governments have general objectives about the equality of opportunity but few have explicit policies. Surely most countries recognise the importance of teaching science and technology and educating girls and women but there are no specific measures taken to encourage women or oriented towards science and technology.

Togo, Burkina Faso and Chad appointed a special Minister in charge of the Promotion of Women. Other countries have a women's component attached to either the Ministry of Education (South Africa), or Ministry of Social Affairs (Swaziland, Namibia), or a special Women's Division within each ministry and yet others have established a special Women's Bureau (Malawi, Uganda, Ethiopia) or machinery with inter-ministerial authority which co-ordinates activities (Zambia).

In Nigeria a National Plan was adopted by the Minister of Social Development for the Promotion of Women and the Protection of Children in 1996.

Some countries such as Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and adopted the general strategy of making science compulsory for boys and girls at secondary level.

Zambia has a national policy on education that allows girls to choose any technical training programme to achieve gender balance. However, to overcome problems in co-ordination and co-operation among existing projects and programmes addressing gender issues, the Zambian Government has set up the Integrated Education Sector Investment Programme to deal with all issues pertaining to the formal and non-formal education and skills training. At the same time, the Ministry of Education put in place a policy which requires both boys and girls to learn Home Economics and Industrial Arts. Previously Home Economics was offered to females only and Industrial Arts to males only. The Ministry of Education Policy document has a section dealing with gender issues in Education. It addresses the problem of inadequate access to education, low achievement and low participation of girls in Mathematics, Science and Technology. The activities undertaken in Zambia under the Ministry of Education project supported by ODA in order to improve English, Mathematics and Science, have affected the social attitudes of students, parents and others towards STVE. Since 1985, the government of Zambia has promoted a number of women in the fields of science and technology to higher positions, thus providing role models.

The Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education was launched in Ghana in 1996 and the Government is determined to expand particular action-oriented programmes which have had a positive impact in addressing the various disparities. The National Technical and Vocational Education and Training Plan, jointly set up by the Ministries of Education, Employment and Social Welfare, is addressing the policy of a systematic apprenticeship programme with specific activities directed at improving access for girls. A special effort is being made to introduce girls and women to emerging fields in science and technology such as informatics, genetic engineering, biotechnology and computer technology.

The South African government's White Paper on Education, highlights the need for addressing the issues of gender inequality specifically by identifying means of correcting gender imbalances in the enrolment, drop-out, subject choices, career paths and performance. It further seeks to address sexism in curricula, textbooks, teaching and guidance. To achieve this the Ministry of Education proposes to appoint a Gender Equity Task Team led by a full-time gender Equity Commissioner. Special reference is made of the need to have more females involved in science and technology "achieving equitable education requires that new ways be found to encourage more girls to select those subjects (non-traditional subjects such as mathematics and science). It is thus a national priority not only to promote Science and Technology Education, but also to encourage women to pursue these fields." In addition, the first national conference on Women (Lutsango) in Science in Technology in South Africa was held in September in 1998 organized by the Department of Arts, Science, Culture and Technology (DACST). A call was made to the government by women academicians, politicians and NGOs to increase the participation and access available to women in Science and Technology.

In Tanzania, the Policy on Women in Development identifies problems arising from planning without gender focus. The government commits itself to increasing women's access to education and particularly access to higher levels of education and training by the year 2000. Tanzania has expressed a strong commitment for the participation of women in scientific development. The National Science and Technology Policy states that in order to enhance the active participation of women in the promotion and utilization of science and technology, the government will take deliberate measures to raise the level of literacy among females, expand the enrolment of girls and women in education institutions and increase educational training opportunities for girls and women in Science and Technology (42).

Deliberate affirmative actions have been taken by the Government of Uganda in order to improve the status of women. For example under the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda one third of the membership of each local government has to be reserved for women. Women in Uganda who enter University are given an additional 1.5 bonus weight to boost up their aggregate total. Thanks to this measure the percentage of women in tertiary institutions has  increased from 25% to 34% in a period of three years. Science departments likewise have recorded higher intakes. In Uganda, a number of renowned science teachers and professors conduct holiday classes for those students who want to excel. About 80% of participants are girls from secondary schools. This measure has enabled many more girls to join professional courses in tertiary institutions. Professional organizations, notably the `Uganda Institution of Professional Engineers has an Educational Committee where Counselling and Career guidance are emphasized.

Malawi has a policy under the constitution of the country and a policy statement on women under the development policy. The Development Policy made a specific mention of the improvement of technical education for women, however, statistics from the Ministry of labour indicated an average of 4.6% enrolled for a period of 5 years. Statistics from the Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi showed a steady increase in the enrolment of girls/women in Diploma/Degree and Technician programs for the period between 1987 and 1991. The policies and measures have to a certain extent been effective but the effect has not made much impact on the status of women especially in the rural areas where the majority of people live. The Science and Technology Policy advocates equal and adequate opportunities for all to acquire basic science education in Malawi. The National Youth Policy in its objectives mentions the creation of educational and training opportunities to enable the youth to use basic scientific and technological principles. In its priority areas for action, the policy intends to encourage females to take up science and technical subjects.

Benin, Mozambique and Zimbabwe have no national gender policy but the governmental initiatives are underway. Mozambique has progressively introduced compulsory education and scholarships to girls from low-income families. The Ministry of Higher Education in Zimbabwe plans to increase female participation in science and technology fields by 30% by the year 2001. The government of Benin has reported that to increase the participation of women it is necessary to: encourage equal access to women; increase the literacy, perhaps free schooling for girls or other measures to increase their access to teaching facilities; adapt teaching methods to the requirements of girls; and promote technical participation to orientate girls towards "masculine" domains, Some of the measures taken include the access to Internet for girls in technology and the creation of prizes for girls.

It is worth noting that the first Regional Ministerial Conference on Education, held in South Africa (MINEDAF VII, 1997), emphasised the "status of science education in Africa" and committed themselves to: collaborate, develop and share teaching and learning materials in order to strengthen science, mathematics, technical and vocational education in Africa. Aready several initiatives have been taken or are underway to make scientific, technical and vocational education readily accessible or appealing to girls.

In order to increase the number of girls in secondary schools, the Tanzanian government adopted the initiative of lowering the entry standards, but it is reported that it does not seem to benefit them within the secondary schools, since they are not given special help to compensate for their under-achievement at entry. No particular measures have been taken in Nigeria to encourage girls and boys towards scientific careers, but instead to promote a general teaching in the formal education. Practical Activities and Productions were re-introduced in school programmes from the 1st degree and a project AESES/FAD concerning the amelioration of teaching the sciences in the first and second cycle in the second degree was started. Technical schools and colleges were created which are insufficient and not well developed, however, girls are relatively present in these establishments. The emergence of private technical and scientific teachings are favourable to girls since several years, more so because of the difficulties encountered in public schools due to repeated strikes.

The Introductory Technology programme, which is compulsory for both boys and girls, into the junior secondary school curricula has been adopted in Nigeria in order to expose students early in life to rudiments of technical skills and applications as well as inculcate a positive attitude towards technology. Through this way, girls are encouraged to handle tools, construct and appreciate what technology is all about. Many States have established Special Science schools for girls to increase girls' access to science and technical education. These all female schools have recorded a higher achievement in science and their products are choosing science-based careers.

Affirmative action intervention strategies adopted in Zimbabwe in 1995 appear to be effective with A-level schools, universities and technical-vocational institutions achieving at least 33% female enrolment. In 1995, institutions such as the University of Zimbabwe adopted an affirmative action policy which admits into university aspiring female students who may have lower entry points than males in order to increase their participation.

Currently in Africa, there is an ever-increasing realization of the need to make science, mathematics and technology curriculum content, educational materials, teaching methodology and examinations more gender-sensitive and relevant to the needs of the respective nations and societies.

Zimbabwe has re-appraised its national science curriculum known as the ZIMSCI curriculum. Affordable science kits developed within this framework, using materials readily available in the local environment, have popularized science education particularly in rural areas. The ZIM-SCI curriculum has been adapted and adopted for use in other countries, such as Botswana where it is known as the BOTSCI. It is worth mentioning that in 1996 ZIM-SCI won the Comenius Medal in recognition of curriculum innovation, awarded at the 45th International Conference on Education (9). Uganda is implementing substantial changes to science, mathematics and technology curricula, starting at the primary school level. There is a new science curriculum for the formal school, which is still being improved through the development of appropriate materials, including teachers' guides to support its more effective implementation. An additional effort is the Complementary Opportunities for Primary Education (COPE) project, which is for the out-of-school youth, and specifically targets girls. The Science Curriculum Initiative in South Africa, SCISA, is developing new policies and strategies in all areas of development in order to redress the huge imbalances created by the apartheid system. The GABLE in Malawi aims at increasing the enrollment, achievement and persistence of girls in primary school, notably by developing gender-sensitive curriculum materials such as Pupils' textbooks, Teachers' Guides, and Teacher-training support materials, which contain positive messages about girls' and women's roles in society and school.

In Ethiopia positive actions are being taken to encourage more female teachers. In the recruitment of trainees in the teacher training institutes, special criteria are set to encourage female applicants. Teacher Training Institutions reserve 30% of the admission seats for female trainees. The grade point average, one of the entrance requirements to Higher Education, at the Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Examination, (ESLCE ) has been minimized for girls to give them a better chance at entrance. This mechanism has enabled girls to raise their numbers in universities and colleges. The Zambia Association for Science Education has increased the participation of women in the activities of the association, and through seminars and conferences organised by the association, gender issues are discussed and positive attitudes of science teachers towards girls in science are beginning to appear. Botswana has plans to start a three years project in support of management development training at the basic education level, including a teacher up-grading component through distance education; school-focused interventions to develop training and teaching materials; teacher-focused interventions which will organize short school-based and residential up-grading programmes in mathematics, science, english and social studies; and an information technology support-for-schools project that will train teachers for a project to pilot a computer awareness syllabus for junior secondary schools (43). In South Africa, a network of individuals and organizations concerned with change in science education, has provided a model for teacher education and seeking to bridge the gap between pre-service and in-service teacher education.

It has long been recognized that many school science curricula build more on the out-of-school experiences of boys than those of girls. Consequently, efforts have been made to give girls extra assistance in the learning of science by exposing them to science activities through specific camps, roadshows, exhibitions etc. The best known of such efforts is the Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, SMTE, Clinics for Girls, which have been provided in Ghana for over ten years. In these 'clinics', girls engage in hands-on-work in the area of science, mathematics and technology to give them experience, facilitate understanding and hence help them to develop confidence in handling scientific, mathematical and technological subjects and materials. In 1995 and 1997, Zimbabwe tried out the Ghana experiment to 'booster' programme in physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics for girls. In Zanzibar, annual science camps are held for junior secondary and primary school students and teachers, and gender equity is an important selection criterion. The Zanzibar experience has been a model for at least one other initiative elsewhere, such as two camps in South Africa.

In 1991 a Science and Technology Traveling Exhibition was organized in Botswana - the Botswana Roadshows - with hands-on-type of experiments for students to do in order to arouse interest among notably girls. More recently, South Africa has organized a large Science and Technology Road Show as part of that country's Year of Science and Technology (1998) with the purpose to alert all South Africans as to what is going on in the world in science and technology, and to encourage the country to become more involved in these vital areas of human endeavour.