HARARE – The ministry of health has quietly scrapped the requirement to have passed O’ Level mathematics for one to qualify for nurse training.

For decades, Zimbabweans seeking to train as nurses and many other disciplines had to have passed maths, English and science with at least grade C or better.

In a surprise turn, the ministry of health’s latest call for trainee nurses is silent on the maths requirement.

A newspaper advert inserted by the ministry in a daily paper last week said applicants for the latest intake, whose deadline is April 21, a required to have “a minimum of 5 O’ Level subjects with passes in English Language and a science subject and three others (excluding practical subjects which are fashion and fabrics, metal work, graphic art, and woodwork) at Grade C or better obtained at not more than two sittings with full certificates as examination result slips are not accepted.”

Applicants should not be younger than 17 years or older than 30 years by May 13, 2024, the ministry added.

On Sunday, doctors who spoke to ZimLive voiced their concerns over the move.

“This lowering of standards appears to be a targeted move to get people who don’t qualify to join the nursing profession, God knows for what reason,” one doctor said on condition they were not named.

“Nurse training involves a wide range of mathematical concepts and skills, including number sense, measurement, and data analysis. A nurse recruited on what appears to be a purely political formula will be a danger to patients.”

The government recently banned medical professionals from embarking on indefinite strikes as ministers also questioned their patriotism.

The new recruitment criteria could see under-qualified youths affiliated to the ruling Zanu PF party being seconded for nurse training, a tactic used in army recruitment.

Hospitals which do the nurse training have in the last three years complained about the centralisation of nurse recruitment in Harare, which the government now appears to have abandoned.

The advert published in the Herald newspaper says applicants must drop their application letters at their nearest general nurse training schools.

Hospital chiefs however say the recruitment of trainee nurses still by-passes senior medical personnel or chief medical officers of the institutions.

“In the end we just get a list. Now it’s probably going to be a list of people who barely qualify,” said one senior doctor of a major referral hospital.