Scores of students who could have passed their form five examinations and secured places at university posted poor results because they were guinea pigs in the government?s experimental double shift system that is going awry ? the Botswana Secondary Education Teachers Union claimed last week.
BOSETU Publicity Secretary, Justin Hunyepa, is blaming the surprise failure of Francistown Senior Secondary School students in the 2006 BGCSE examinations on the Ministry of Education?s ?ill advised? double shift system.
The high performing school, which for many years was among the top 5 best performing school in the country, shocked many parents when it slipped to 15th position in 2006 after it was chosen for the controversial double shift experiment.
The BOSETU observation is backed by FSSS headmaster, Othusitse Othusitse, who told The Sunday Standard that his school posted a dismal 38.91 percent pass rate and slipped 10 positions down to 15th position because of the double shift system.
Othusitse told The Sunday Standard that the school adopted a peculiar model of double shift in which only form fours shifted, while the form fives did not, in a bid not to disturb them in their final year. ?The system, however, proved strenuous for teachers as it effectively meant that they had to work without a break in between from 6am to 6pm in contravention of the Botswana labour laws.?
Management thus decided to allow Form Fives to shift; a development which he says met strong opposition from students. He says the new system adversely affected the Form Fives as they were forced to change their study schedule only a few months before they sat for BGCSE examinations.
?Some students had to change teachers mid syllabus to adapt to the new system,? he said.
Even before the double shift system was rolled out in January 2006, BOSETU issued a report warning the Ministry of Education of the potential dangers.
They warned that there had not been proper consultation with teachers, parents and students to prepare them psychologically for changes that would make demands on their daily routines.
They also warned that teachers? morale would be affected as the double shift system would put a lot of strain on them and that there was going to be very limited teacher-student contact teaching time and phasing out of afternoon lessons.
The school convened a meeting last Tuesday to explain to enraged parents and help restore faith in the school. Othusitse revealed that they are receiving reports that after dismissal from school at 12:30 pm, students do not go home or to the library but rather loiter in town engaging in unsavory deeds. BOSETU had warned that alcohol and drug abuse and teenage pregnancy would increase as students had a lot of idle time in which they were not under the supervision of teachers or working parents.
Othusitse also disclosed that as part of their program to save the situation, they have adopted a pastoral policy from the secondary department in which they will divide their 2400 strong students into eight houses of 300 or so to increase teacher interaction with students and to improve management.