Wednesday, July 6, 2022

‘Positive approach could have prevented education crisis’

The root causes of Botswana’s education crisis are easy to tell. That at least is how Edward Tswaipe sees things. Too much emphasis on infrastructural development and a damning neglect in developing a human resource base have led to the sector’s present state of terminal decline.

“We have a problem with the quality of education,” says Tswaipe. “That problem is that Botswana’s approach on development is based on infrastructural development.”

Such an approach, Tswaipe reasons, has led to government only pursuing a strategy of enrolling as many children as possible for primary education. In spite of the accolades Botswana gets from UNICEF, the country’s goal towards Education is not holistic.

The net effect of steamrolling large numbers of children into school has been an emergence of generations of unskilled graduates.

There is also a mismatch of labour and unemployed youngsters, mostly school drop outs and graduates. In essence the labour market is failing to absorb them both because of their poor skills and reluctance to work.

“Part of the crisis is not at tertiary level, students at lower education are a problem…one wonders what basic education is teaching this kids,” says Tswaipe.

Vocational education is seen negatively. Had it been taken seriously during the 1970s Botswana would be far in terms of exporting skilled manpower, Tswaipe says.

He suggests that to make an effective turn around, Botswana needs to be bold with its human resource development programme.

“Youth unemployment is a by-product of a failed education system. For us to create a match there has to be a link between industries and their impact on the curriculum,” says Tswaipe.

Another troubling issue, he says, is young people’s general reluctance to work.
“There is a failure to deal with work ethics. Our people are inherently had working but schools are failing to institutionalize good work ethics.”

There are multifaceted issues here, including but not limited to teachers challenges such as class size, reward and discouraging factors.

“Nowadays, society has transferred children’s upbringing to teachers,” he says, adding that there were also cases of indisciplined teachers who do not attend classes, and some who engage in intimate relations with students.

“The problem of the neglect of teachers is part of the paradigm,” Tswaipe says. By taking teachers’ concerns with a bit of indifference, government is failing to appreciate that it can only worsen the education sector.

“Government has to realize that the teacher is the centre of learning,” he adds.

He says the problems surrounding teachers’ housing issues, salaries and progression requires urgent attention. Instead of focusing on teaching and pioneering in the field, a lot of teachers aspire to be headmasters, technocrats and regional officers as opposed to manning the classroom and using their skills where it is mostly required. The oversupply of teachers is not helping the situation.

He suggests that to cure this problem of migration of the classroom teacher to other fields, government should consider a separate pay structure for teachers. This, he says, could also be coupled with a retainer allowance. He adds that as it stands, Administrators at schools are a form of bufferzone in that they are blocking progression of other teachers.

“All teachers aspire to be school heads. They aspire to leave the classroom.”

He says it is time the education sector was broadened to allow for career paths within the teaching fraternity.

Sadly, the workload of the teachers has increased alongside fears for the casualisation of teaching as a profession. For this, he cites the BOFEPUSU and BAC saga where teachers boycotted marking of scripts leading to replacement labour.

He points out that at higher Education level Universities are also grappling with the corporations of Education. He says instead of funding research independently, corporations are now making donations to Universities as a strategy to pattern University research.

Tswaipe proposes the formation of another Education commission as a national dialogue to address the education policy, management as well as a review of the Education Act. He argues that Botswana stands to benefit a lot if the Ministry of Education is split into two.

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