The report on the inquiry of the conduct for the 2010 Examinations released recently is clear testimony that all is not well within our education system.
It must be remembered that in 2010 an impasse between teachers’ unions and the Botswana Examination Council (BEC) and the Ministry of Education compromised not only the examination process but the future of a generation of young learners.
Clearly, the Examinations were marred by a lot of controversy and each of the stakeholders has their share of the blame.
An examination of the report shows that poor decision making by many of the stakeholders led to what turned out to be a tragicomedy of historic proportions.
We must, from the onset, commend the taskforce for making a comprehensive probe and not merely setting out to apportion blame without proffering any meaningful suggestions for future engagements.
We must accept, as a nation that our education system is in a bad state. Every year, we know that the invigilation and marking of examinations bring conflict between the Ministry of Education officials on one hand and teachers’ unions on the other. The disagreements are normally over teachers’ remuneration during the invigilation and marking of examinations.
The importance of education in any society and what it welds for many young learners cannot be over emphasized. Every country that takes stock of itself knows that in education whence lies the future of its growth and development. Examinations, as an important part of an education system, are very pivotal to the system and thus to the nation.
The chairman of the committee sent to probe the 2010 Exams, Keetla Masogo, couldn’t have expressed it any better in the report when he said, “Examinations are an integral part of the education process.”
In Botswana, they have for decades been the yardstick by which educational achievement is measured. They have simply become milestones in the long journey of education as they are determinant of progression to the next ladder or, indeed, whether or not people can find jobs.”
Our position is that the ministry and Unions will draw some wisdom from both the findings and recommendations of the commission.
In a few months time students across the country will be taking their final year examinations as a trial in their journey of learning.
In this regard, it is important to avoid a repeat of what happened two years ago with regards to who will do the invigilation and marking and how much wages such teachers will get. Furthermore, teachers‘ conditions of service during examination time should be an issue that the Ministry of Education and the Examination Council (BEC) should prioritise, based on the delicacy and importance of the Examination process.
From a general observation, it is also undesirable for teachers unions to use their muscle to force government’s hand, especially during examination times. Using children as a bargaining chip and in the process turning them into collateral cannot under any circumstances be justified no matter the cause.
We fully associate ourselves with the committee’s findings that for future invigilation and marking only practicing teachers should be engaged. The ministry’s decision engage former teachers and graduates did not only compromise the integrity the entire examination process but affected students as well. Clearly either party was out to show the other that they could be humiliated.
As rightly observed by the probe, the long standing grievances between the Ministry of Education and Skills Development and teachers Unions only complicated matters. Therefore, such must be addressed because in future they may create room for a similar crisis. Setting up a structure with equal representation of officials from the ministry, BEC and teachers’ Unions to deal with the teachers’ grievances is not only ideal but long overdue.
The channels and manner of communication between all the stakeholders should remain open.
We urge government to take seriously the recommendations of the commission on remuneration of teachers. Not only that, the BEC should also take responsibility and start accounting fully for the invigilation and marking processes.
As the committee has recommended, it would be fair to delineate the role of the minister and that of BEC.
We hope that all stakeholders will use the commission’s findings not only to revamp their roles as they face challenges in our Education but also to bring some dignity to the teaching profession and Unionism in general.