AU Grooms the Next Generation of Biomedical Scientists (NGBS)Next Generation of Biomedical Scientists Conference 2018
10- 11 September 2018
Africa University hosted the Next Generation of Biomedical Scientists Conference from the 10th to the 11th of September 2018 alongside partners that included the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, the Wellcenter Trust and the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology.
9 of the best schools in Manicaland that were shortlisted based upon their academic excellence and uptake amongst their students of STEM subjects attended the conference and these were Christe Mambo Girls High School, Biriri High School, Mutare Boys High School, Nyakuipa High School, Mrange High School, Lydia Chimonyo Girls High School, St Faiths’ High School, St Augustine and Hartzell High School.
Africa University Vice Chancellor Professor Munashe Furusa hailed the initiative as a positive step towards securing the future viability and strengthening of innovation within Zimbabwe’s health field that aims at providing quality, affordable and exceptional health care services through investing heavily in the future personnel who will man the field.
He went on to emphasise the need for Zimbabwe’s next generation of biomedical scientists to be inventive and look to themselves as the inspiration and well spring of solutions as they put theory into practise. Speaking of the wealth of experience that was present at the conference in the form of renowned biomedical scientists making strides in their respective fields, Professor. Furusa said, “These students are benefitting from established scientists and they are being taught how to conduct biomedical research using the latest equipment and skills in genomic technologies”.
Africa University has long led the clarion call for more impactful and relevant research, more investment in STEM and more innovation. The institution opened Zimbabwe’s first innovation hub, the i5 in 2017 and continues to consistently deliver on possible solutions driven through its passionate research community of students, staff and alumni on issues relating to disease, food security and IT. AU’s strategic partnership with the conference partners is a translation into action of its values and ethos of community engagement and leadership development.
To date, the partnership has facilitated the training of 121 students across Zimbabwe in 2016/17 from 19 secondary schools in the practical application of research methodologies and techniques. This year, the programme is going a step further through encouraging the schools chosen to participate in the programme to put what they have learnt into practice by creating original and creative solutions to the health problems facing their communities. Each of the provinces in Zimbabwe will participate in the competition which was launched in Manicaland at the NGBS conference.
Mr. Frank Muzenda, coordinator of the Next Generation of Biomedical Scientists Conference said,
“Innovations coming out of Africa are worrisomely insignificant. Our objective is to challenge Africa to become a producer as opposed to a consumer of innovations, technology and products.”
According to Mr. Muzenda, Africa over the years has done little in the way of generating cutting edge research and developing home –grown technologies that offer tangible solutions for the continent’s problems.
In Zimbabwe an estimated 35, 000 young boys and girls proceed to A’ Level which is the highest secondary school qualification in the country but only 13% of these students go on to pursue STEM related subjects such as Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. In addition to this, even if students do qualify for STEM subjects, at university level the degree programmes that are most sought after are those related to Medicine and Acturial Science leaving many other STEM disciplines neglected that are integral to the African digital revolution.
Mr. Muzenda went on to explain that the root cause for this can be found in the absence of a culture of research on the continent saying that it is introduced too late into the curriculum of the continent’s learners usually at tertiary level and is aggravated by a limited understanding and appreciation by policy makers of the value of research and funding of the same.
"Current education models are producing for industry graduates who have an almost terrifying deficiency in practical skills and creativity which makes them incapable of originating solutions of any tangible value to human development.” Mr. Muzenda added, “A new curriculum framework has been put in place to address this.”
Speaking to the strategic goals of the NGBS initiative, Mr. Muzenda outlined the strategic goals of the programme which are to firstly, increase the number of students choosing STEM subjects at A’ Level and university , secondly to establish a culture of innovation , third , to increase awareness and appreciation by ordinary people , business and policy makers of the potential that exists within the people of Africa to generate its own solutions if adequately supported and fourth to increase funding and support in research and development in Zimbabwe and on the continent, especially for youth in the field.