Monday, November 28, 2022

‘Our education system is collapsing as we watch’

Dear Editor

Our education system is collapsing before all of us and the nation is just watching helplessly. This is betrayal to innocent children who should be protected and given the best education. We are experiencing poor examination results for the umpteenth time. The results have been declining for years now in a row, and without the slightest show that they will improve in the near future. It is shockingly surprising that all seems to be well in the republic, when it is actually so bad. The country has now reached a crises level in education! We cannot wait for another year and witness the disaster unfolding before us. As a nation, we are already suffering from the negative effects of the past poor programmes which includes two year junior certificate; the double shift programme; automatic progression of standard seven students, etc. The effects of the programmes are already felt as we experience unprecedented effects of crimes and other social ills. These are the direct products of a failed education system.

The productivity levels are reported to be on the downward spiral, and possibly, partly due to the poor quality of our graduates. As a nation, it seems we have become numb and insensitive to the deteriorating quality of education. This cannot be allowed to continue, unless we are comfortable with the disaster awaiting to explode. There are clear indications that the education system is on its knees! And yet nothing is being done to help rescue the situation. The matter is now beyond the Minister of Education and Skills Development. A strong lasting solution is needed in education. The nation has to rise and really rise to save the nation. If there is a national issue that needs petitioning the State President into action, it is the education issue.

Thousands of defenseless and helpless children have being thrown into the streets by our own education system. Good education should help solve social, economic and political problems. Our education system is a clear embarrassment and it is far from solving the above. It is a paradox that the country is well endowed with such resources to make the children proud, and the nation wealthy and sustainable, and yet we are failing. Each and every one of us has betrayed the children of Botswana. And the worst affected are the poor and disadvantaged children. The Francistown West petition which led to the postponement of the elections was just a storm in a tea cup! Here is a real problem where the State President has to intervene on public and national interest. The Vice President, Hon Ponatshego Kedikilwe, knows the current education system far much better. As the Chairperson of the Kedikilwe Commission of 1993 and the subsequent white paper (Revised National Policy on Education of 1994), Kedikilwe is now in a more privileged position to help direct the country’s education system. Part of the problem with our education is the poorly implemented RNPE which is now more than 20 years old. The pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions are not doing well at all.

The quality of our graduates at various institutions has been questioned by the different sectors of our economy and some out rightly rejected. The Teachers morale is at sick bay as they are very demotivated by the working and living conditions. Instead of supporting and motivating them, they are subjected to all sorts of harsh treatment ranging from unpaid overtimes, discriminatory levels of operation, forced to stay at schools when schools are closed, made essential services so as to restrict them from full union rights, etc. Experienced School Heads were constructively dismissed and replaced by some who needs a lot of guidance and assistance. There has been a lot of pettiness and sloppiness when dealing with education issues. These have led to education being poorly managed as in some instances undeserving people have been elevated to some demanding positions, in schools and other offices.

In-service workshops should be reintroduced and properly managed. The workshops used to assist both new and experienced teachers to really appreciate the teaching content and methodologies and even refresh the old horses with the latest strategies in education. It is almost 10 years now since these workshops were stopped under the pretext that there is no money. It is now crystal clear that there is no quality education in our schools.

In fact, there are a host of challenges in education which needs appropriate interventions.

An independent and transparent Presidential Commission is needed to solve the education crisis. Teacher unions should step up strategies on how education should be improved. BOSETU is one of those organizations that contributed and lobbied heavily for the formation of a teaching council. BOSETU wants to see professionalism in teaching and those unprofessional should account. That is the position of the union and it is disappointing that the bill is collecting dust somewhere. Civil Society Organisations should rise and make their voice heard.

Parents’ role in education is under serious doubt. Some have neglected their roles and left teachers to double as teachers and parents. The socialization process has collapsed or on the brink of collapsing completely as reflected by the growing number of undisciplined students in schools.

The Executive (Cabinet) should also come out clearly about the vision and future of this country, otherwise it will be accused of having taken the education system down the drain for having failed to come up with appropriate policies, programmes and other interventions. Planning how to suppress teacher unions is not a viable intervention.

The Parliament, when it opens the budget session on 3rd February, should adjust its programme line up and dedicate more time on education issues. Legislators have a lot of power which should be used to solve the perennial education problems. The nation should watch them very closely and see if they are really concerned with the education of our children. Members of Parliament can differ on any other issues, but we expect them to speak with one strong voice to save the poor children and nation, not rhetoric based on party lines and caucuses.

The State President has to come out clearly and even constructively engage professional bodies that deal with education on daily basis, like teacher trade unions. His dislike of the trade unions is now costing the nation as he is unwilling to engage them, while the poor children are suffering. President Seretse Khama Ian Khama acted with speed on a number of national issues. In trying to reduce road carnage, he revised traffic fines; introduced alcohol levy; abolished hunting to protect wildlife and lately intervened on the allegedly fraudulent Francistown West bye-election by entertaining the questionable petition and ultimately postponing the elections. Your Excellency, education is the back bone of any economy as it drives it, creates wealth, fights social ills like diseases, crime, unemployment, poverty, etc. In fact, the social, economic and political development of the country hinges heavily on education. Mr President, the education system is helplessly bleeding, and you are to save it! Institute an independent Education Commission with clear terms of reference to help get down to the real problems in the education system. If nothing happens your Excellency, expect a genuine petition from the nation.

Justin Hunyepa


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