The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) considers education as the most critical sectors in Botswana. UDC strongly believes that quality education can solve the socio-economic problems that Botswana is facing now. Education can help resolve the challenges of unemployment, poverty, diseases, corruption, and economic stagnation. This explains why UDC sent a delegation of three central committee members comprising Hon Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South and UDC Vice President, Ndaba Gaolathe, Cde Justin Hunyepa who is the Secretary for Labour and Dr Prince Dibeela who is Secretary for International Relations, to the recent Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) conference in Palapye. The Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development who officiated at the event, Hon Master Goya, called on the teachers and other stakeholders to help with solutions at the bed ridden Ministry. Among other issues, Hon Ndaba told the BOSETU delegates that the Ministry needs a strong policy to run the education system. The country has got one of the best education policy which has been poorly implemented. The Revised National Policy on Education (RNPE) of 1994 is lying at the government enclave and its recommendations selectively implemented.UDC has got several solutions to the Ministry of Education and the honourable Minister should be patriotic enough to take the pieces of advice and apply them at the Ministry. The RNPE has got more than 20 years without proper implementation, monitoring and evaluation. A brief tour down memory lane. There has been the pre-independence 1965 Hutton Report, a commission that studied the teachers’ salaries and other conditions of service and unfortunately its recommendations were not implemented by the colonial government then. In 1969, just after independence, President Seretse Khama reflected on the plight of the teachers and was worried that they have been neglected for too long. It was in 1976 that President Khama commissioned Education for Social Harmony, popularly known as Education for Kagisano and this served Botswana relatively well. Education for Kagisano was revised in 1993 by the Kedikilwe Commission, hence the 1994 RNPE. Years have since gone by and there is need for the RNPE to be subjected to expert national evaluation and revision and a fresh policy document produced. This is the most critical education policy and failure to subject it to a national commission will lead to perennial poor results at all education levels.
The 26 days requested by the teaching profession has been hailed as a possible solution to the impasse between the teacher unions and the ministry on overtime issues. This matter has been tossed around for years now, and this could be the time to be evaluating it now had the ministry implemented it as advised by the teacher professionals then. The government is just scared of something that it has not put to test. Put it to test Hon Minister and if it does not work fix it. Meanwhile, thousands of innocent students are suffering.
BOFEPUSU and BFTU have appealed to your ministry and government not to classify teachers and other cadres as essential services. Your party, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), has fought the trade unions in court and parliament 4 times and lost on this matter. And the party is going for the 5th battle in the November parliament, where it is expected to unpatriotically use its numerical strength to take away the teachers and other cadres bargaining power to strike. The solution to this Minister Goya is to use the International Labour Organisation (ILO) definition of essential services and your problem is sorted out.
The RNPE recommended that a package of incentives be created for teachers to boost their morale and raise their motivation levels. The policy warned that teachers can make or break the system. Please help teachers make the system by proving them with the incentives which the European Union at one point sponsored to have such created. This is yet another solution.
There are thousands of qualified teachers who are roaming the streets and yet classes are overcrowded. Student-teacher ratio has been a headache for years and the RNPE provided a solution for that. It is even sad to hear that some of our teachers are going to countries like the Seychelles to find employment. Employ more teachers.
There are hundreds of experienced school heads and deputies who have quit the teaching profession due to harassment and frustration by some former ministers. The heads produced good results and their schools were well managed. With all that experience, they opted to be in bush with their livestock than imparting knowledge and skills in our schools. Track them Hon Minister and utilise them. Nip out nepotism, favouritism and victimisation in the education system and this will help turn the education system around. These are some of the challenges and solutions Hon Goya. A comprehensive commission will however help the nation and ministry to fully appreciate the challenges and also provide appropriate solutions. Implement these solutions which you requested to save what little is left of the education system. In progressive democracies, the voice of opposition parties and civil society is embraced by the government and their ideas are incorporated in national development policies. The BOSETU Conference has therefore provided a platform for both the union and the Ministry of Education to move from ‘narrative to practical execution of core mandate’ as their theme proposed.
Justin Hunyepa is the UDC Labour Secretary