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Need to enhance women`s participation in science and technology

18th February 2013
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Data shows that only 30% of scientists in the country are women. (File photo)

According to the COSTECH report on “Development of Science & Technology System and Experience of Tanzania on Science & Technology Data Collection” released in 2005, there are no reliable statistics on which to base a realistic estimate of the Research and Development (R&D) manpower. 

 
Available information from various R&D institutions does not distinguish between administrative support staff ad scientists. However, by 2005, the number of scientists in Tanzania was estimated to be 12,922 persons, while the total labour force amounted to approximately 10 million, hence R&D manpower ratio to total labor force was 0.0013, or 13 scientists per 10,000 persons in the labour force.
 
On female proportions in science and technology in Tanzania, it was further estimated that there are 4,963 scientists (3,493 Male and 1,470 female scientists) who are currently working in R&D institutions in the country. Proportion of female scientists is about 30% of all scientists in the country. This shows that the country has fewer female scientists. Government policies on Gender and Development advocate for enhancing women’s capacity in all sectors to reach at least 50% of the positions in various sectors including science and technology.
 
The COSTECH (2005) report that R&D personnel head count by sector, occupation and sex. The trend has remained the same with female under represented in all occupations. The report analysed number of female versus male personnel in R&D in terms of researchers, technical and support personnel in various institutions namely the government, higher education and COSTECH. 
 
The data shows that by the time of this study in 2005, there were 2078 researchers (1650 male and 428 female (20 percent of all researchers), 1148 technical personnel (793 male and 355 female (30 percent of all technical personnel) and 1737 support personnel (1053 male and 684 female (39 percent of all support personnel). The trend shows that female personnel in all R&D occupation are between 20 to 39 percent, it has not exceeded 40 percent! 
 
Though the above mentioned data is a bit outdated it shows that women’s participation in science and technology is still very low, and this calls for effective measures to empower women to take up occupation in science and technology fields.
 
Another study done by UNESCO in June 2011 on “Assessment of Women Scientists’ Participation in SET in Tanzania” indicated that the percentage of enrolled women in the sciences is much lower than that of male counterparts. For example by 2009, in 11 universities and colleges in Tanzania, the total enrolment was 38,683, out of which female proportions of total enrolment was 39% only. In that proportion of female enrolment, only 24% were enrolled in science, engineering and technology fields. 
 
Findings from the study further showed that women tend to populate the general sciences, but not the engineering and technological professional areas. Out of the surveyed 11 institutions there were 8 women in general sciences, only 2 in engineering and only 1 woman in the technological area.
 
The most recent data released in 2011 shows that female students’ enrolment at tertiary level stands at an average of 30 percent in non-physical science and about 10 percent for mathematics, physics and engineering.
 
There a number of reasons for the low participation of women in science and technology in Tanzania as stipulated below:
 
(a) Low academic achievement at all levels of education: on girls’ education, evaluation of SEDP I which was implemented between 2004 and 2009 revealed there was poor performance in secondary education examinations, with most students especially girls getting marginal pass of Division IV or failing completely. 
 
There has been a big difference between boys and girls joining Form one in government schools especially in the years 2008 to 2009 (BEST, 2009). This is mostly because of poor performance of girls at PLSE (see Table… for trend in performance of girls at PSLE in 2005-2009). As a result of this (and other factors leading to drop out of girls) the percentage of female enrolment at Forms 1-4 has dropped from 47.3 in 2005 to 44.7 in 2009. However, the percentage has risen from 37.8 in 2005 to 41.5 in 2009 at Form 5 level because of deliberate efforts to avail more places for girls at this level. The number of schools admitting girls at this level has been increased from 53 in 2006 to 86 in 2010.
 
Pass rate at Certificate for Secondary Education Examination of Division I to III is still under 40% after 5 years of SEDP 1 (the objective was to increase pass rate from 36% in 2004 to 70% in 2009). The performance of girls was still lower than that of boys
 
(b) Inappropriate learning environment: inequalities in learning environments among different schools resulting in inequalities of learning outcomes, with girls doing poorly in both participation rates and pass rates, especially in science and mathematics subjects, and female students in community secondary schools doing consistently poorly. 
 
Performance between 2004 and 2009 shows that there were further low transition rates (hardly 30%) from Ordinary to Advanced level secondary education due to limited availability of Form 5 places, with more effect to girls who are underachievers.
 
It is true that a gender gap in many fields exists between the number of men and women science scholars and scientists in the science, engineering and technology (SET). Data shows that only 30% of scientists in the country are women. Women lag behind men in education and specifically in the areas of science, mathematics, and technology (SMT). 
 
At the studentship and employment scene, fewer women scientists than men join the science courses and SET industries, whereby only 24% of all enrolled female students in tertiary education have enrolled in SET. The few women scientists have been known to meet with challenges that affect their performance, progress, and retention in STE.
 
(c.) Social-cultural barriers: There are a number of socio-cultural barriers that continue to prevent girls and young women from participating to their full potential. The thought that technology is not for women continue to be embedded in the minds of some people.
Various government policies in Tanzania emphasise the need for promoting education for women. This emphasis is through realization that women have important roles to play in the socio-economic development of our country. Here is a brief review of the national policies:
 
(a) Development Vision (DV) 2025: DV 2025 recognises the existence of gender inequality in our country, therefore advocates for the need to ensure gender equality and the empowerment of women in all socio-economic and political relations and cultures.  
In order to accomplish this, DV 2025 emphasises that education should be treated as a strategic agent for mindset transformation and for the creation of a well educated nation, sufficiently equipped with the knowledge needed to competently and competitively solve the development challenges which face the nation. In this light, the education system should be restructured and transformed qualitatively with a focus on promoting creativity and problem solving. 
 
(b) National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (NSGR II): The second NSGR which will be implemented between 2010/11 and 2014/15 focuses on accelerating economic growth, reduction of poverty, improving the standard of living and social welfare of the people of Tanzania as well as good governance and accountability.
This strategy recognizes the importance of improving gender equity in education. It highlights the need to strengthen and expand enrolment while ensuring quality and equitable access by gender. Moreover, it highlights the need to expand and improve infrastructure in order to expand enrolment especially of girls.
 
(c) Education and Training Policy (1995): The policy recognizes low rates of participation of women in education. The policy indicates that the slow growth of the participation rates of women at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education may be attributed to cultural preferences for educating male children, high drop out rates due to early marriages and pregnancies and relatively low performance of girls in class and during final examinations when compared to boys. Therefore, the policy measures to promote women’s education at all levels of learning.
 
(d) National Science and Technology Policy (1996): The policy recognizes that women participation in science and technology has been minimal. Therefore, the policy promotes participation of women in promotion and utilization of science and technology. In order to enhance the active participation of women in the promotion and utilization of science and technology, the policy advises the government to review policies and establish plans to increase the proportion of women participation in decision making and planning as well as take deliberate measures to raise the level of literacy among females, expand enrolment of women and girls in educational institutions, increase educational institutions, and increase educational training opportunities for women and girls in science and technology.
 
(e) Gender and Women Development Policy: advocates that education is a key to liberation and an important tool to alleviate socio-economic problems. Women face numerous constraints to access education and training at all levels. The problems include the unfriendly pedagogy especially in the teaching of mathematics, technical and science subjects, which require competitiveness and some degree of assertiveness which girls often lack. Truancy, pregnancy, economic hardships and early marriages constrain girls from completing their schooling. Existing social attitudes favour and promote boys’ education and pay less interest in the education for girls.
 
The government is committed to increase women’s access to education in order to narrow the gap between boys and girls in primary and secondary schools. For example while the enrolment of girls in primary schools is 50 percent, in secondary schools girls are 46 percent of the total enrolment. Less and less girls are enrolled in higher learning institutions (at university level girls are 17 percent of the total enrolment).
One of the major constraints facing women in being enrolled in science and technology courses or obtaining gainful employment is low pass rates and education, and inadequate economically productive skills.
 
The focus of the government has been to increase women’s enrolment into vocational, tertiary and higher education. The government has also restructured education and training at this level so that it relates to employment creation.  
 
In order to curb gender disparity in education especially in SET fields, the government in partnership with various local and international development partners have established a number of support programmes for female students including (just to mention a few)  the Carnegie Foundation female scholarship scheme at the University of Dar Es Salaam; the David Anderson Africa Trust (DAAT) female scholarship programme at the Open University of Tanzania; TUSEME project by the Forum for African Women Educationalists, Tanzania Branch (FAWE-TZ), Science Education for Secondary Schools (SESS) by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT), and Female Pre Entry Science Programme (FPESP) which is managed by Tanzania Education Authority (TEA).
 
The writer, is a specialist in education planning, policy studies and economics of education. He can be reached through: +255754304181 or masozi.nyirenda@gmail.com
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN