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By Richard Moleofe
The recent Form 5 results have really shocked many of us who are outside of the education system in Botswana. Imagine that the best school in the country has scored below the 50% mark.
A week later Zimbabwe Ministry of Education released theirs and we cannot compare ourselves to them in anyway. It would be like comparing watermelons with pumpkins.
I went through their results as they had posted the best one hundred in the country. Our number one which is St Joseph’s College cannot compare to their number 100th.
The school is St. Mathias Tsonzo Secondary School with 55.33% while St. Joseph’s College in Kgale scored 47.75%. The worst is Good Hope Senior Secondary School with 10.92%.
What is our current investment in our education system and are we content that we are getting good return for what we have put into our schools? The collective Ministry of Education enjoys one of the highest amounts given to it every year during the national budget allocation. But this is clearly money into a bottomless black hole pit.
Some educationist has pointed the root of the problem as the indiscriminate admission of students who have obtained D and E from Standard 7 into Form 1. That is what the compulsory ten years of basic education policy says should be done.
Imagine that D students continue to progress into Form 4. The difference between us and Zimbabwe is that they do not admit any D students at any level. Theirs is no free education in Zimbabwe. Because parents pay the school fees, they have a greater say in the manner in which schools are run.
Free education in Botswana has caused a big division between the classes of our society. The middle class have moved their children to the local private schools while the wealthy upper class has moved theirs to private schools overseas and into upmarket schools in South Africa.
This divide between the rich and the poor with the middle class bridging the gap in between will ultimately have dire security consequences for our country in the not so distant future.
We are already seeing the results of this unbalanced growth and upbringing of our children living in the same society but separate communities. The current rate of petty crime is a result of what we have been brewing all these years. The petty criminals usually come from the low income areas and the rich living in walled properties are generally immune from that form of crime.
The rich have consistently robbed these poor communities through corruption which has become big business especially for those with adequate connections in the ruling party.
The amount of money said to have been looted from our national treasury amounts to billions of dollars. If properly used, we could not be having any crisis with the availability of classrooms. Some class sizes are as big as sixty two students. Educationists and labour unions have consistently advised government on the issue of teacher-student ratio and no one cared to listen.
I took a look at a picture of our class when we completed Form 5. I appreciate the fact that we were like an English medium class as we were only 28. Indeed the teacher student played a big role in our level of performance.
Since the days of former President Festus Mogae, the education standard has been slowly shifting off the mark. Mogae championed the double shift program which government implemented against good advice. The earlier mistake of a two year JC was quickly corrected when it was realised that it was not yielding intended results.
Matters got worse under the rule of Ian Khama who clearly didn’t value education. The amount of money he had allocated for air assets in the last budget of his presidency was huge. The plan went on anyhow regardless of the growing chorus of people who wanted the budget to be reviewed in favour of education.
What we are generally doing with our children is to continuously experiment with their lives in the education sector. You can never experiment with health and education. These are the two most sensitive sectors.
The result of experimenting with health is death while that of experimenting with education is crime. There is a clear correlation between the declining levels of education and the growing crime statistics.
Khama systematically created an unpeasant society through the decline of education. The revamping of programs such as Namola Leuba to Ipelegeng which now “employs graduates” was a clear sign that he had no time for improving education. Khama had no education and cared less for anything along those lines.
Even the current president doesn’t seem to care much about the education sector even though he is a teacher. He has appointed a statistician as a permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education. What on earth is that person going to count there?
What has all this mess translated into? We are seeing a very high rate of unemployment never seen anywhere in a middle income country. We are creating a time bomb.
As I said, the decline on education has come a long way. The difference at the current moment is that Botswana Defence Force and Botswana Police can no longer act as catchments for these young men and women beaming with such tremendous energy.
This energy is now converted into performing crime, abuse of alcohol and the abuse of drugs and sex. The reality on the ground is truly terrifying. Some places in the capital city of Gaborone have become no go areas. Taung bus stop is a classic example of such places.
The nation lives under terror and fear. Our lives have literally been altered by crime. This happens while government presides over the way our lives have been changed. Taking walks after sunset has become luxury, a thing of the past.
*Richard Moleofe is a security analyst