Monday, July 15, 2024

Botswana should seriously consider taking a public education detour

Botswana’s education system is not fit for purpose. That much was said in the early 1990s by a Kedikilwe Commission that was chaired by PH Kedikilwe. But that was a long time ago. Additionally and sadly, many of the Kedikilwe Commission recommendations were never implemented. That said events have since gone past. But the system too has worsened. So bad is the situation that a more informed view today is that it would take no less than thirty years to get Botswana’s public education back on track. We need to get the education back on track because the effects are now already felt at multiple levels; the workforce and with that at the economic level. Botswana needs to make a transition to Vocational Education and Training (VET).

That transition is long overdue. Continued delays are costing the country an arm and a leg. The benefits of an appropriate education would lead to increased productivity. Diamonds have carried Botswana for far too long. And the diamond days are clearly coming to an end. With that, increased productivity has never been more crucial. VET increases innovation and also competitiveness; the two factors currently lacking in our society and because of that responsible for holding our country backward. VET should go as to be integrated into the overall national industrial policies. When that happens organisations too find ways to make VET a part of their organizational planning and growth. In short for VET to happen there has to be a mindset change. That will come at a cost, the biggest of which will be to convince people that VET is not a second rated kind of education. It therefore follows that new and big investment in education be made.

Botswana government has a history of investing in education. But it is on the return side where there have been problems over the years. Returns have often not been worth investments. That has to change if part of such investments are to be channeled towards getting the society ready for VET. In Botswana the biggest problem standing on the way of education transition to VET is a low understanding of VET and its benefits. That low understanding is especially rife among political leadership and policy planners. Once the benefits of VET are well understood among those groups, then that long awaited and long postponed transition will happen. And the benefits, which have excellence at the centre will happen. The reason why private schools are ever increasing in numbers and their tuition fees are on the rise is because of decline in public education. Until and unless the public sector education is fixed the unsustainable growth and influence in private education will continue unabated. In that growth the loser will be the poor people, especially those who stay in the rural areas who will have no choice but continue with the failing public education.

Education has always been considered as a great leveler that brings down boundaries of class and allows career progression for those from poor backgrounds. With the collapse of the public sector education, the poor can now kiss a good bye to their dreams of progression in life on the back of education. The growing divide between these two sectors erodes the gains made over the years and further entrenches inequality in our society. The divide pushes down those who have been using education to climb up the ladder. Role players need to play constructively. Like the rest of their ilk teacher trade unions have become militant and combative. They will have to be a part of the solution. Trade unions have to be more flexible and seek solutions rather than keep churning out problems. Another arm that will be critical will be parents. Parents have to take education of their children much more seriously than is the case today. And then government. Government has to lead a change in mindset.


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