Saturday, September 23, 2023

An ageing population of Professors poses Quandary for Tertiary Sector

During the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union which was held in Ethiopia on January 31st, the Union adopted the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 2016-2025) as the framework for transformative education and training system in Africa. The strategy has so much relevance than ever to the development of Botswana.

The Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 is mainly driven by the need to achieve high-quality, high-equity education system and training that provides the continent with “efficient human resources adapted to African core values and therefore able to achieve the vision and ambitions of the African Union”.

For Botswana to achieve meaningful and sustainable economic growth, tertiary education must be centrally placed in the development agenda. Botswana must not build the tertiary education sector under pressure like most African countries, but as part of its priority strategic development plan.

The (CESA 2016-2025) comes at a time when inadequate education is one of the critical issues facing Botswana. Currently, Botswana’s education system appears ill-equipped to prepare all young people for the future. Despite reasonable growth in tertiary education in the past two decades, enrolment across Africa still averages at only about 7%. According to CESA strategy, Postgraduate education remains underdeveloped and its contribution to research and innovation remains minuscule. 

It is well known that over the next fifty years most developing nations, including Botswana, will experience a significant ageing of their population. Birth rates have been gradually going down in Botswana, further putting the brakes on growth. American Journal of Social Sciences revealed that there is evidence of a decline in the number of births per woman in Botswana. Worryingly, tertiary education in Botswana is also faced with an ageing population of professors and trainers. This is a clarion call for Botswana to renew the teaching force. It is critical for Botswana to understand the implications of these ageing professionals on economic growth, especially in terms of policy development.

An ageing population of professors and trainers and low birth rates are not so good news for the economy of Botswana. An ageing population of professors could lead to a shortage of workers. Alternatively, firms may have to respond by encouraging more people to enter the workforce, through offering flexible working practices.

According to CESA, tertiary education provides an environment for the development and exploitation of science, technology and innovation to support sustainable growth and development. With an ageing population of tertiary trainers, Botswana remains in a quandary since it is eons behind in the development of a true research philosophy. 

Concerning tertiary education, (CESA 2016-2025) stresses that: “All development players now concur that for any meaningful and sustainable economic growth to be realised and sustained, tertiary education must be centrally placed in the development agenda of nations.” However, in Botswana, this falls flat on its face because of an ageing population of professors and private providers of vocational and technical education who are just interested in profit and care less about the quality of training they provide. It is quite concerning that Africa’s education pyramid has a broad base of 79% participation at the primary level, a 50% participation at secondary level and 7% at tertiary level.

Such an imbalance means that the education sector will fail to articulate with economic and social sectors, resulting in inequalities and exclusion at all levels. These confronting numbers demonstrate why we need our government to have a policy rethink on how our education system caters for students, especially tertiary students. 

According to the Global Entrepreneurial Report, Botswana’s economy is not categorised under the innovation driven phase where businesses are more knowledge-intensive, and the service sector expands, but falls under the factor driven phase which is dominated by subsistence agriculture and extraction businesses, with a heavy reliance on unskilled labour and natural resources. If Botswana is indeed about growth and jobs, then addressing the ageing population quandary must take precedence as this is a pathway to that growth.

Education is indeed a key but it must also be comprehensive and well thought. In this strategy paper, tertiary education and research have been given more stress than in previous education statements, reflecting the African continent’s realisation of their importance to growth and development. 


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