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[NAIROBI] A US$7 million programme to improve the teaching of mathematics and science in African secondary schools has been launched in Kenya, funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency.

The initiative, Strengthening of Mathematics and Science in Secondary Education (SMASSE), will train 3,500 teachers over the next five years.

It is expected to be expanded to include other African nations such as Malawi, South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia and Burundi.

“Training of teachers from other African countries will commence in March next year," said Bernard Njuguna, head of SMASSE in Kenya, at the launch of the programme in Nairobi last week. "By then we shall have put the necessary infrastructure to handle a big number of science teachers from across Africa.”

Njuguna said that the project, which will be based at Centre for Research and Training in Karen, Nairobi, would involve seminars, workshops and exchange programmes among member countries.

Kenya’s deputy minister for education, Kilemi Mwiria welcomed the programme, saying it would help to make science subjects more popular in African schools, and in doing so would contribute to Africa's development.

“African countries have not invested enough in research and development. This is why they have been unable to achieve sustainable development,” he said. “We have to allocate more money to research if our countries are to catch up with the developed world.”

Mwiria asked African leaders to recognise that science and technology were the key for development. “These two should be imparted in our children right from primary to university levels,” he said.