Monday, October 3, 2022

Government must refrain from knowledge-based economy rhetoric and act

Without doubt, Botswana is the envy of some of her regional peers in terms of  the care it gives its citizens through social safety nets that go beyond taking care of senior citizens to access to education for the disadvantaged young citizens from primary to tertiary.

Things being equal, there was a disturbing story recently aired on Btv  in which the Acting president, Slumber Tsogwane acknowledged, in  accustomed government fashion and speak, that Primary School Heads and their juniors need to be equipped with not only skills but gadgets to assist and facilitate improved teaching and learning.

It beats logic that in 2022, we still have educators who are struggling not only with the most basic manual teaching aids but are left behind as countries talk about not only the fourth industrial revolution but the fifth.  Accessing information and research through the internet is not the luxury  that should be enjoyed by private schools – the so called English medium schools.  Each and every public school in Botswana must have access to information technology with government as the driver supported by the private sector.

The Acting President essentially made an admission that his government has failed educators at primary school level.  Instead of  saying there is a need for educators to have computers, to make teaching more effective, he failed to declare that his government has a deliberate, focused plan to correct the disturbing status quo with clearly spelt out  time frames.

There is an urgent need for this government to take education in public schools seriously. It is inconceivable that the majority of the population of Botswana is condemned to sub-standard educational standards in a rich country with a relatively small population.

Our politicians have the tendency to regale us with terms such as private public partnerships only when it suits them.  Public private partnerships should also be extended to public education as opposed to business ventures. The advent of the internet technology has brought with it many opportunities and challenges alike.  It is high time that government engages experts in this field.  They are not rare to find.  We have no doubt that mobile telephony service providers would be eager to come to the party if government has a clearly defined path where it wants to take this nation to realise its promise of making Botswana a knowledge-based economy.

It is a fact that Botswana ranks high among countries  that devote sizeable budgets on research and development at number 83 worldwide . Having said that, the government of Botswana must invest more on research and development  if it desires to realise its ambitions of turning the country into a knowledge-based economy. It requires bold and unflinching energy. The ruling party must demonstrate maturity and commitment to its electoral manifesto of a knowledge-based economy by setting aside a significant portion of the national budget for research.

Related to this, government must also make a deliberate effort to to promote education with production to emulate developed economies such as those of Japan and Germany and others which are not as lucky to be endowed with mineral wealth like us.

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