Sunday, January 24, 2021

The homeschooling debate comes home to Botswana

A couple of weeks ago, President Mokgweetsi Masisi was pictured leaving for China with his wife and daughter on tow.

Normal right? – As normal as a man travelling with his wife and child, it sent the whole nation into a tailspin. The internet was swamped with posts from curious citizens wondering if the president made her daughter Atsile bunk school. Theories and speculations were flying fast and thick with some suggesting that as an educationalists, the president probably homeschooled the first daughter. This brought home to Botswana, the homeschooling debate which has engrossed international education pundits for decades. It has however not exactly found a happy landing ground on our shores.

However, if the first daughter is being homeschooled, she would be among a few Batswana who are following on the footsteps of global giants who have changed the course of history, among them Sir Albert Einstein who is famous for the theory of relativity. The Einstein’s could not afford to send their son to school and so homeschooled him with the help of a medical student who tortured him in maths and science. The list of homeschooled geniuses in politics, literature and entertainment includes among other former President of America, Barack Obama, the 28th President of America President Woodrow Wilson, famous novelist Agatha Christie, famous poet William Yeats, musician Taylor Swift who was too shy to go school and two tennis pros Venus and Serena Williams. The two sisters showed promise at the game of tennis at a very early age, so their father decided to homeschool them to fit their practice schedule into their education.

Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University Of Botswana says homeschooling is the future. “Education is changing and soon the conventional going to class and attending lessons is going to be obsolete. Homeschooling in developing countries is predominant, parents use DIY approaches to teach -anything to change the conventional style of teaching that is in public schools really. In as much as homeschooling seems to be a good idea, I think it is not a one size fits all ÔÇô it is not for every parent, homeschooling takes a lot, I don’t think parents just wing it, they have to get homeschooling training on how to handle their student (child) even emotionally, it is already a challenge for parents to tell their kids to do their household domestic chores homeschooling is a whole other ball game.” She says homeschooling is definitely an emerging and viable option for the education system in Botswana.

The core idea behind home-schooling is to tailor make the instruction to the learning speed, and in the style, most appropriate for learners. Without the normal formal curriculum to guide their education, home schoolers get the chance to explore a range of topics that might not be normally offered until high school and/or university. They can study psychology in grade four, or finance in form 1, while many home-school families do teach English, maths, science, and history, education is by no means limited just to those subjects.

Many parents seek out home-schooling because their kids need more one on one attention. Home-schooling is often a great solution for kids who are advanced learners, as well as kids who feel disengaged in school, bored by the curriculum, or struggling with a learning disability. Unfortunately it is surrounded by many myths and misconceptions. Defined as an instruction in an educational program outside of established schools, home-schooled kids have the same access to online learning, friendships, and extracurricular activities as the typical public school student ÔÇö but without many of the drawbacks, like standardized lesson plans and bullying.

Cynthia Chibiya is a teacher at Masa Primary School in Gaborone says homeschooling isn’t popular in Botswana yet. “As a teacher, I don’t dislike it. If a parent wants to pull their kid out of school and do homeschooling, that’s completely fine with me. Aside from that, as long as the student is getting appropriate education, I’m fine with it. It isn’t like everyone is going to turn around and start homeschooling. Most parents can’t afford the time “

Thapelo Setshego works at Fours Cash & Carry in Gaborone, as a parent he says I am all for homeschooling, I would like to see it being put in place in Botswana.  Currently, there are approximately two million children home schooled in the United States ÔÇô and that number is growing by about 10 percent per year. I am not quite sure when it’ll be formally introduced in Botswana but studies show that kids who are homeschooled perform well on standardized tests, excel at Universities, become self-directed learners, and succeed as adult employees.”

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