Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Failed internship programme described as ‘best practice’

A programme that has failed to inspire confidence here at home is being hailed as a spectacular success thousands of kilometres away.

“Governments should emphasize employment and investment in the agricultural sector through vocational skills training, commercial farming training, and farmer cooperative formation and strengthening. The focus should be on job creation, entrepreneurial skill development, and small business development. Best practices such as the Malawi Youth in Agriculture and National Youth Service Program and Botswana National Internship Program can impart knowledge and entrepreneurial skills,” says the “Economic Outlook for Southern Africa 2018”, a document produced by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The official rationale for the National Internship Programme is that it was set up to “offer unemployed citizen-graduates of Botswana, a chance to develop work skills and experience that will support them in the transition from school-life/academia to the working world through attachments in various organisations in Botswana and outside.” However, as Kabo Diraditsile, a PhD candidate at Waseda University in Japan found when he studied this programme, the reality is grim. His own theory with regard to the motivation for the programme is that it was borne out of political expediency. The programme just before the 2009 general election. He finds its capacity to alleviate youth unemployment to be severely limited because it caters for degree and diploma holders at the expense of youth who only went as far as secondary school.

“Interestingly, the Botswana National Internship Programme (BNIP) was evaluated a few years ago but the results were never made public,” Diraditsile writes in an article that was published in the Asian Journal of Social Science Studies. “The critical question is: has the programme succeeded in doing what it set out to do? Informal discussion with some government officials suggests that it has succeeded. However, critics believe that it failed and only succeeded in providing temporary exploitative employment for very few young people.”

He adds that most young people enrolled in the programme “are not gaining sufficient professional training and skills because of weak mentoring and job shadowing arrangements.”

Without much explanation, the government has introduced the Graduate Volunteer Scheme (GVS) which could well replace the national internship programme, not least because it is cheaper. While interns gets an allowance of P1 400 a month, those enrolled in GVS get a meal allowance of only P600 a month.

It is unclear where AfDB got its information but the bank doesn’t appear to have strict fact-checking protocols for its publications. In 2014, it falsely claimed that Botswana’s external debt had breached the statutorily mandated ceiling of 20 percent. That assertion was challenged by the Director Budget Analysis and Debt Management in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. A year earlier, it had reproduced a contested Sunday Standard story without independently verifying the details and never once acknowledging the source.

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