The agreement between Statistics Botswana and Ministry of Tertiary Education’s Research, Science and Technology department to collaborate and co-produce statistical information seems a necessary action to address employability challenges in Botswana.
The two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last week Wednesday to signify the mutual partnership. The cooperation will among other things augment input into evidence based decision making, development planning and policy formulation. The organisations’ official relationship is specifically set to ensure the availability of tertiary education sector statistics. This offers the opportunity to use tertiary education research as a means of deriving the drivers of change to be able to feed into the labor market environment.
Over the years the mismatch between graduates’ skills and the needs of the labor market has been a growing concern particularly in the graduates’ lack of employability resulting in the high unemployment rate. This is despite a solid track record of the significant investment put into educating and developing the country’s human resource. A 2016 Journal by Mpho Pheko and Kaelo Molefhe from the University of Botswana investigated whether there are differences between the skills and attributes that University of Botswana students perceived as important versus the ones that have been reported as important by the global labour market. They identified that research on the issue of employability is scant and solutions to assist the affected groups to enhance their employability remain scarce and inaccessible. In light of such findings the newly formed partnership between SB and the Research, Science and Technology department could be seen as filling the gap.
The Journal suggested, as one of the examples, that to address the current employability challenges the country needs to have access to employability information. To understand the root cause of the employability challenge, it proposes that researchers need to dissect the unemployment data and accurately inform students and various players in the labor market on the specific causes and types of unemployment in the Botswana labor market. It is apparent from the Journal’s observations that research plays a pivotal role in addressing the employability challenges.
Moreover, the local think tank, Econsult, previously put forward that “policymaking must be rational, based on evidence, and implemented consistently and transparently in the national interest.” This suggested that the current status quo doesn’t indicate that policy formulation in Botswana is derived from proven statistical information. This issue was also raised by a Journal study compiled by Senior Research Fellows Gape Kaboyakgosi and Keneilwe Marata from the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA). In addition the Journal study found that “Since the turn of the new millennium, the government has increasingly created and adopted policies to which it does not adhere. Policy commitment assists in building state credibility (when dealing with outsiders such as investors), and certainty among the locals.”
The signing of the MoU will see SB, being the custodian of national data, work robustly on research and development around the tertiary education sector hence moving from the ad-hoc basis it previously applied. In an effort to ramp up the working relations the Ministry then approached SB so that the two organizations can leverage on each other’s expertise, said Permanent Secretary, Dr. Theophilus Mooko.