Columnists Features

Inadequate investment in science hampering research


ACCORDING to my assessment as a science journalist, I have concluded that investment in scientific research has not been adequate enough to facilitate comprehensive research in Zambia.
Scientific research is very expensive; therefore enough funds have to be committed to this important programme in order to have scientific research contribute to socio-economic development in Zambia.
Currently, there is so much focus on infrastructure development (roads, schools, health centres, houses) but very little on research and as a result, most research institutions are operating on half capacity.
There is no harm in upgrading infrastructure in the country, especially that the same may complement scientific research.
However, there is need to strike a balance in terms of funding between infrastructure development and scientific research.
How about a Eurobond for scientific research for once!
The Ministry of Higher Education is mandated to spearhead scientific research in Zambia.
However, would an outsider looking at this title of the ministry be able to readily see science and technology in this ministry? The science and technology component is overshadowed.
Yet in our National Development Plans, science and technology has come out strongly in the preamble, as a vehicle of development. But on the ground it is not readily visible.
We definitely have a problem that needs to be addressed.
Besides poor funding, it is clear that the Ministry of Higher Education is overwhelmed by disturbances at the two institutions of higher learning in the country – Copperbelt University (CBU) and University o Zambia (UNZA).
Problems at the country’s two universities are just too much because they are cyclic – it is either the lecturers are protesting against management or students are demanding allowances.
Therefore, higher education authorities spend more time sorting out problems at CBU and UNZA and end up relegating scientific research to the periphery.
To remedy this, Government should seriously consider having a Ministry of Science and Technology that will focus on scientific and technological research.
I say so because the current ministry that houses scientific research is called “Ministry of Higher Education”.
From the two trips I have made to Sesheke in the past 12 months, I keep hearing how many healers in Katima Mulilo from the Namibian side cross over to Zambia to get our medicinal plants.
Each time I hear this, I ask myself, is the Zambian research community sleeping on these green diamonds (medicinal plants)?
The herb which Namibian traditional healers is harvesting from Sesheke suggests there may be many other plants to discover.
With the Sondashi Formula (SF2000) showing signs of success, it would be prudent to use it as a springboard.
The SF2000 is due to undergo a Safety Trial, and that this (trial) is not designed to confirm whether the Sondashi Formula works against the HIV virus in humans or not. This trial will be done on healthy males, who are participating in this trial on voluntary basis. The confidentiality and safety of participants is of paramount importance to all of us involved in this research work.
However, poor funding to the scientific sector paints a picture of our hardworking scientists being load sheded.
Truth be told, Zambia is lagging in scientific research and that is why almost every tablet, syrup, powder, including sex boosters are imported from India.
Yet China makes US$14 billion per year from medicinal plants and herbal drugs.
This has made our universities too academic and seem divorced from real life problems.
We have CBU and UNZA, the Tropical Diseases Research Centre in Ndola, the National Science and Technology Council and the National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research – all five star institutions which can help turn around this country.
Due to inadequate funding for research, one thing I have observed at CBU and UNZA is that there is more politicking and probably beer drinking than research.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail

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