Sunday, September 20, 2020

Our education system is bleeding – BTU

In my previous submission to this column last year around this very same time, I echoed the headline “Our Education system is hit by Leprosy” and today as we look at the deplorable JCE results, the writing is on the wall. Our education system is in dire straits and badly bleeding.

We cannot help but call for divine intervention from the Almighty God and from whomever cares because some of the problems surrounding our education system have been relayed to the relevant authorities through round table debates and even through the strikes by the labour movement, and to date we continue to experience sophisticated humiliation in our education system.

Simply put, ours is an education system which is brutal to the innocent lives of today and tomorrow’s generation. This year’s JCE results are traumatic to the learner, the parent, the educator and the nation at large. Our self-consciousness as a nation, especially those in position of power, should challenge us to get to action and try to reverse the assault that has been declared on innocent lives. The human power behind our mental faculties is still capable of helping us apply our consciousness to the toxic and devastating problems around our education system and with God being on our side, we can produce commendable solutions as a nation.

It is a baffling open secret that of the 38 385 students who sat for the examination, only 40.7 percent passed which is a decline by about 7 percent when comparatively looking at the 2011 results. Within the same score, 59.3 percent of the nation’s future leaders failed (22 751 innocent souls) are going down the drain and are likely to roam the streets sooner. This is truly a disgrace in an absolute sense of the word and the sooner we apply our minds to the problems at hand in the system, the better so that we can come up with solutions to the injustice we are rendering to our children today. A couple of factors are likely to be the cause of these alienating results:

Lack of resources versus the new syllabus: The issue of lack of resources in the Ministry of Education & Skills Development is now almost a culture that has been haunting schools for ages. The problem got magnified last year when a new syllabus was introduced and then having books distributed so late. Learners received their book 1 at the end of Form 1 in 2010, book 2 was distributed towards the end of Form 2 in 2011 and some schools received theirs early 2012 and then book 3 for From 3 never reached majority of the students and yet they were supposed to be preparing for the exams.

Transfers and victimization of teachers: The public service strike has had grievous impact on both the socio-economic and emotional aspect of the teachers. A lot of teachers got transferred after the strike especially those who participated in the strike and some continued getting threats from the powers that be. These transfers coupled with brewing animosity between the teachers and the employer destroyed and frustrated learners because in some instances schools lost almost half of the teachers and what this meant is that students would get new teachers at a time when they are preparing for the exams. Now this became a tactic of victimizing or disciplining the educator at the expense of the learner.

Exodus of teachers for further studies: In 2012 the number of teachers who were nominated for further studies ballooned extremely. A lot of teachers went for further studies at a crucial moment when students were revising for the exams and some schools were still trying to finish the syllabus. The ultimate was that students ended up receiving so many new and inexperienced teachers who just worsened the situation. It’s good for teachers to go for further studies-it’s something we applaud. However, the “mass exodus approach” has proved to be a suicidal endeavour.

Poor working conditions: This issue is now some kind of a ritual. Labour movements have complained about it, they continue to advocate better conditions of service, but to no avail. Disgruntled teachers will never produce good results-period!

Two worlds approach to school management: Following the public service strike, it is clear that in many schools we have two fronts. Those who are the chosen ones who always dance to the dictates of the school leadership and those who have been branded with a cloud of hatred and are always seen as enemies of the system. Petty-approach to school administration is on its own divisive and deadly since it demoralizes and also educators. Unity is supposed to be number one!

The list is just not exhaustible. However, we have reached a point in our education system where the minds of all those who are involved in the system should become mentally decolonized and come to a point where sanity and consciousness can prevail so that our education system can better serve our children, the nation and the world at large. We need a humanistic and an impartial approach to all the issues surrounding our education if at all we want to liberate this nation. We cannot pretend that things are okay when it is clear from the results such as those of JCE that our education system is failing to deliver. Something has gone horribly wrong. Our education system is seriously bleeding. Is anybody there caring at all?

(Tidimalo Modise Maeletso is the Publicity Secretary of Botswana Teachers Union-BTU)

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.