CAN DO? TEACH
‘Send graduates back to school’
● The government wants maths and science graduates who study at state-funded universities to complete compulsory community service by teaching these subjects at schools that are battling with teacher shortages.
Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane told the Sunday Times it was hoped that this proposal, in a draft white paper on science and technology, would be seen as part of giving back.
There is a great shortage of maths and science teachers, especially in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
“Why should we battle to find maths and science teachers in this country when there are people that have done maths and science at public universities?” the minister asked.
Busisiwe Goba, a lecturer in maths education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, welcomed the proposal. She said that participants should be paid a stipend. “There is a huge shortage of good maths and science teachers in the country. It will be good if those who major in maths, applied maths and statistics can give back to society.”
Speaking in her private capacity, Goba, who is president of the Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa, said those doing community service could even end up joining the teaching profession.
“It’s a good suggestion but government will have to get buy-in from the graduates themselves.”
The government also wants publicly funded science research to be available to the public for free, to bring South Africa in line with the open-science, open-innovation model that is taking hold across the world. It has to remove barriers to innovation and increase the amount the country spends on research and development.
“As a general principle, all of South Africa’s publicly funded research and research data should, after a careful analysis, be available to the public for free (with the exception of data that can compromise sovereign security and which is of a confidential nature),” the draft white paper says.
The proposal seeks to establish an open platform where such research will be published and all data arising from it shared publicly. “Government will encourage researchers to deposit data arising from research in publicly accessible repositories, and to support open-journal publishing and data-sharing and providing access to data and other research outputs arising from publicly funded research,” the paper proposes.
At the moment, science research is published in specific academic journals, some of which are not easily accessible to the public. If the draft paper becomes law, it would mean that all science research from South Africa’s 26 public universities would be made available to the public. Scientists would still own intellectual property rights and patents on their innovations.
“It must be remembered . . . that open innovation does not mean ‘free’. Patents and intellectual property still apply, but only at the end of the innovation process.”
The white paper also proposes that South Africa’s gross expenditure on research and development be increased to 2% of GDP within 20 years. “Government recommits to the target of increasing the intensity of research and development investment in the economy so that it reaches 1.5% of GDP in the next decade, and an aspirational 2% a decade later,” suggests the draft paper.
Kubayi-Ngubane said increasing investment in research and development would help solve some social problems. “When you have problems in sanitation, we as science platforms have innovations to provide solutions. If you fund research and development in the country, you are likely to have localised solutions for local problems.” reporting by Prega Govender