April 4 2010: The Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Council, Patrick Molotsi, says the admission of grade “Ds” from primary school into secondary education is undermining the quality of products that ultimately make it to tertiary education.
A few years ago in its endeavour to enhance prospects of achieving universal education at secondary school level, Government took a deliberate decision to broaden admissions by admitting Standard 7 grade “Ds”.
In an interview with Sunday Standard, Dr Molotsi, said the standard 7 grade “Ds” are negatively affecting the whole education system.
The “Ds” from primary school filter into secondary schools where, according to Molotsi they manifest in the inability of O’level students’ to write or communicate.
“Many of them survive Form 5 because it is multiple choice. Analytically they are in the dark,” said Botswana’s tertiary education chief.
The problem, he said, is also compounded by what he calls the “crisis of teachers”.
“Quality has gone down. So has passion and commitment.”
Molotsi says the problem is that many teachers of today are in the “wrong places,” teaching not because they enjoy their job, but because they have no choice.
To fix the problem would require addressing the root causes, which means even revising the pre-school curricular.
Despite all these problems, Dr. Molotsi is of the view that overall tertiary education in Botswana is showing signs of improvement.
The infrastructure, especially in privately operated colleges and universities, has gone up.
Teaching and learning facilities like libraries, laboratories and computers are available.
Lecturer qualifications have significantly gone up.
On the governance front, the private colleges have opened up significantly.
Students and staff are now involved in the governance structures.
Dr. Molotsi says not so long ago private colleges in Botswana were effectively household companies, with owners insisting on doubling as Vice Chancellors even as they did not possess the rightful educational qualifications.
“These schools are now forced to open up and cede control. They wouldn’t have improved unless we demanded so,” he said.
He said there is still a lot of work to be done, especially on the aspect of corporate governance, as there is still too much overlapping between control and management.
On curriculum content, Dr. Molotsi says TEC has insisted on a review of programmes, presided over by external panels that come up with reports recommending what areas each college has to focus on for improvement.
Going back to the quality of teachers, Molotsi says there is a vicious circle which has to be broken if the quality of teachers in Botswana has to improve.
One of the problems, he says, is that at present there is no professional body which sifts and selects teachers.
“In other countries teachers are required to register just like nurses. In Botswana people have run into teaching because it was the only thing available.”
He adds that the teacher profile, especially in the rural areas, shows that the profession is manned by people who are older and also who have given up on their prospects in life.
“It is these teachers who don’t quarrel about their poor working conditions who consistently produce the worst results.”
Research has proved that the high number of such despondent teachers is concentrated in the North West District and the western belts of the country where schools results are perennially terrible.
“Of course, this is not peculiar to teachers and it is not meant to criticise anyone. In Botswana we have nurses who are not nurses, police officers who are not officers and the like.”
Molotsi says schools have to contend with teachers who are for ever drunk, who are always absent because of sickness and the like.
“May be teachers need to be re-invited to reapply and allow for modern testing to apply.”
He says student pregnancies as a result of relationships with teachers serve to show that many teachers do not have a “teacher character.”