Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Sealing every leak on the Education Pipeline

Our crop of politicians continue to show sparkle in their parliamentary debates. When [the] Member of Parliament for Francistown West Honourable Ignatius Moswaane made his contribution this past week, he lamented the under-utilisation of facilities and resources particularly that belong to the taxpayers for expansion of knowledge for personal development and education. This is so true to be disputed!
When the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) talks about the Life-Long Learning Cycle, it simply suggests we must continue to acquire knowledge throughout our stages of life. It serves no good to have a strong foundation in pre-school education as I advanced the previous week, and then consciously stop learning along the way. Even PhD holders continue to research, write and publish so they can be turned into professors; some attain the status of professor emeritus and yet others are referred to as distinguished professors and so on and so forth. To break down what the honourable MP means by underutilisation of these facilities and resources at our disposal, one can ask the simple question: Who killed our night schools?
When I was growing up, those who did not make the cut to attend the elite Maun secondary school in the 1980s had the alternative of Maun private secondary school, which met at the Moremi II Memorial primary school at night. It was this study group that birthed Tshwaragano community junior secondary school (my alma mater). A cousin who graduated from Maun private secondary school has in fact served at least three terms as the honourable member of council and chairman, thanks to the lessons he acquired from the night school! It would seem people used to have the self-drive attitude that caused them to invest in their education back then, when things were rough and tough. A classic example I am ever proud to cite is that of my departed uncle [may his soul rest in eternal peace!], who worked his day-job as a manager at BP/Shell (back then) and at night had to coexist with the rowdy behaviours of students qualifying to be his own children in the night schools from standard seven through form five. At sixty years of age, he and I shook hands with the then President of the Republic, Dr Festus G. Mogae as recipients of the Master of Arts degree in 2003 from the University of Botswana. His outlook about life served as inspiration for me throughout.
The NHRDS life-long learning is all about exploiting such facilities to our advantage as Honourable Moswaane is suggesting. Facilities and resources that go to sleep when we go to bed should in fact be kept alight and alive so that those hungry for education can access instruction, and in the process improve the quality of their livelihoods. The life-long learning cycle therefore seeks to give an opportunity especially to those that may have had the misfortune to study in the conventional classroom at the right age because of the various reasons of their circumstances. For example, some people miss out on school because of cultural backgrounds that disadvantage certain types due to: (gender, religion, ethnic) and in some cases being born into poverty can delay one’s learning. But later in life, someone desiring to acquire competencies and skills must find conducive platforms that support the learning exercise to take place unfettered.
Obviously such necessary undertakings lead to improved grades, more knowledge acquisition, and exposure, while increasing chances of success at life. After-school programmes that empower citizens to gain education should not be limited to what is currently provided by the Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL) or the Adult Non-Formal Education (Ga e golelwe); rather as Moswaane is saying, there is abundance of facilities that belong to the taxpayers that should be turned into classrooms for learning to take place. The education pipeline that has no leaks therefore, shall continue to supply education to the citizens beyond adult age, if they so desire to engage in educational pursuits.
Not only do these night-schools serve the needs of those hungry for education; if we can exploit to our advantage the available facilities in both the public and private sectors to impart knowledge and share perspectives, we shall also create job incentives for those that have joined the high rates of unemployment, but who can offer the nation something in the form of coaching and instruction as teachers. The Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) as the driver of the NHRDS is interested in all these spheres because to develop human resource is multi-faceted: expansion of knowledge and job-creation are among the possible outcomes of what the NHRDS sets out to achieve. Empirical data shows that those who embrace learning beyond the conventional classroom setting to attain supplementary qualifications do in fact multiply their chances of employability, hence improved standard in the quality of life they end up leading.
Therefore, in order for the pipeline to remain sealed, adults must not see their misfortune in the past to be an insurmountable hurdle to get educated now, rather; they must seek better avenues to launch their career paths by learning new techniques and skills, for example, handling Microsoft Office package which can enormously help them in the efficient running of their small enterprises in the informal sector. Surely these men and women who lost out on education at young age, have in their majority raised men and women who are waving the flag high up, and that resolve alone to ensure that we went to school, be it by way of selling traditional brew or mining sand or selling fat cakes; if one has to remain relevant in this day and age, it shall require them to expand their knowledge beyond the indigenous wisdom. But how can they realise their potentials, if our education system is such that it discourages self-development by closing out anybody from the use of facilities and resources at the close of business day? Gone are the days of the famous Capital Continuous Classes (CCC), but who can ignore the contributions made by such study groups across Botswana?
As the debates on the quality of our education system rage on against the backdrop of this week’s release of the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) results, we must seek ways in which we can seal the leaks on the education pipeline. Much as pre-school education provides the entry point and foundational block for a sustainable education; it is equally important to launch vigorous after-school educational curriculum that can address the skills and competencies of our citizens in the non-formal education sector. Let us bring back the night schools by opening up firstly, taxpayers-funded facilities to allow learning to take place. The private sector won’t afford to be left behind before jumping onto the bandwagon! This is what the NHRDS Life-Long Learning Cycle is about.

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