Botswana Congress Party president, Dumelang Saleshando, has accused the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s education system, saying it marginalises the disadvantaged rural and remote citizens who are poverty stricken, culturally marginalised, linguistically excluded, and geographically disconnected.
When responding to the 2011 PSLE results, Saleshando lamented the fact that pupils in rural areas continue to perform dismally, as compared to those in urban and peri urban areas. He blamed Botswana’s education system for this anomaly, saying education facilities in rural areas are shameful and will obviously not garner impressive results.
“Botswana’s education system is modelled around the Bantu education system. Just look at the public schools, particularly boarding primary schools that serve the most disadvantaged communities in Botswana. Our education system does not segregate on the basis of colour but rather on the basis of place of birth and parents economic status. We are not a society of equal opportunities for all. The fruits of our economic gains are enjoyed by a small section of the community,” said Saleshando.
The 2011 PSLE results show that out of 42 422 candidates who sat for exams, 5 469 passed with Grade A, 6 735 passed with Grade B, 14 936 obtained Grade C; 13 881 Grade D, while 1 373 failed badly with Grade E. The Botswana Examination Council analysis also shows that the A, B and C grade pass has declined while the D and E grade failure has increased.
The poorest performing districts are Gantsi, Kgalagadi, North West and Kweneng. The results are worse in the boarding primary schools most of which accommodate Remote Area Dwellers.
“The BCP is worried that these hard-hit and unsuspecting rural and remote communities are continuously being deceived by the BDP through its Khama populist programmes, visits and distribution of gifts,” said Saleshando.
He slammed the current policy of automatic promotion, saying it will only create a greater pool of uneducated students who will later be abandoned to the streets to add to the ever increasing numbers of unskilled and unemployed youth who are dependent on the BDP’s Ipelegeng programme.
“Our economic growth has produced a small population of the extremely affluent and multitudes of the so-called underclass. Our education system runs two parallel systems that offer unlimited opportunities to a small section of the affluent, while ordinary Batswana are subjected to an inefficient system that produces depressingly poor results,” said Saleshando.
In comparison, he said, private primary schools, whose fees can only be afforded by a chosen few, continue to post impressive results. For example, John Mackenzie Primary School results show that 74 percent obtained grade A, 21 percent grade B and 4 percent grade C.
Saleshando urged government to act fast to deal with the malaise in Botswana’s education system. He said teachers must have at least a degree qualification, and urged government to establish a Staff Development Agency to provide more opportunities for professional development. He also called for improved conditions of service for teachers to raise teacher morale, motivation and status.
“Any child who performs below the minimum learning competencies should be provided with an opportunity to repeat under a well-trained remedial teacher with the assistance of an educational psychologist. Class size must be reduced to allow teachers to give more attention to individual students,” said Saleshando.
He urged government to abolish boarding primary schools and provide child-friendly mobile schools in remote areas. He also called for the introduction of mother tongue for early childhood education, saying it will promote a policy of multicultural education and build a nation that respects unity in diversity and equality.
“The current education system entrenches inequalities and sows seeds for future social and political instability. Residents of regions like Ghantsi and Kweneng West will not forever accept the injustice in our education system. They too deserve a good chance at life through the provision of relevant quality education,” said Saleshando.