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[DODOMA] The Tanzanian government is to fund a highly successful initiative to increase the number of women studying science subjects at university.

The 'pre-entry programme' — which gives a six-week 'booster' course to women who initially fail to meet the entry requirements of science courses — has increased the proportion of women studying science at the University of Dar es Salaam from 3 to 28 per cent over the past six years.

Mwantumu Malale, permanent secretary in the ministry of Community Development, Women's Affairs and Children, says that the government's decision to back the programme — which was initially funded by foreign donors — is a step towards empowering women.

Education is the best preparation for leadership, she says, and gender imbalances in politics cannot be addressed without first improving women's education.

The University of Dar es Salaam aims to increase the proportion of women science students to 35 per cent within the next year. But, even with the help of the programme, it will be difficult to meet such targets because so few girls study science subjects at secondary school, according to AK Kavishe, dean of the university's faculty of science.

Students enrolled through the pre-entry programme can be admitted to various degrees in the faculties of science, engineering and education at the University of Dar es Salaam, the Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences, and the University College of Lands and Architectural Studies.

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