‘Send grad­u­ates back to school’

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By CAI­PHUS KGOSANA [email protected]­day­

● 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

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