EDUCATION minister David Coltart wants to set up 20 academic centres of excellence this year to cater for bright disadvantaged children who will receive full scholarships.
Coltart told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that two such centres would be established in each province with the best education facilities.
This, he said, would help bridge the gap between government education and elitist private education.
“We are looking at ways of catering for the disadvantaged children. If you are a bright kid, the danger is that you will never realise your talent,” Coltart said. “Only a few can afford non-government schools. We are developing a mechanism that will bridge that gap between government and the non-governmental education system.”
Coltart said there were local and British organisations that have expressed interest in funding the project, with the Chinese willing to take over some of the schools.
“We will establish one girls and one boys school in each province. We are targeting schools where we will channel money towards and rehabilitate and then identify the best teachers and heads in government for these academies. We will also establish a scholarship fund,” he said.
Coltart said the next phase would be to establish 20 primary academic centres in 2011 and then vocational centres for the non-academic students.
His long-term vision, Coltart said, would be to have an equal number of academic and vocational training centres in the country so that all differently gifted children would be taken care of.
His ministry has raised more than US$30 million for the Education Transition Fund, whose main funder is Unicef, and its first priority is the provision of textbooks in primary schools.
At the moment the textbook ratio at primary schools varies between 15 children to one and 36 children to one at rural schools and Coltart wants the ratio to go down to two children to one book.
Coltart said his ministry would this year buy more than nine million textbooks for primary schools.
He is still to get funding for textbooks for secondary schools.
On the Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (Zimsec), Coltart admitted that it would take years before credibility of local examinations is restored.
“Zimsec was in a complete shambles when I took over. We have managed to restore a measure of financial viability to Zimsec, although exams were delayed. But it will take time before credibility is restored,” he said.