Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The State of Botswana Tertiary Education Capture

The problem with Botswana is not its education system. The problem does not lie in the type of diplomas and degrees given by her universities. There is nothing wrong with Botswana graduates. Many of them are comparable to graduates graduating from universities around the world. The problem with Botswana is this: The Botswana economy is not creating sufficient new jobs to absorb its graduates from both local and international institutions. The problems is not the nature of programs offered in the institutions that graduate the students. Actually the problem is not education. The problem is business. As long as we think we have an educational problem we are failing to address the real problem. There are no jobs. We have sadly run out of ideas. In the last fifty years we have failed dismally and spectacularly to create industries and manufacturing factories which can employ our workforce. Like spoilt children we have stayed addicted to the singular glittering diamond commodity from the Kgalagadi sands of Jwaneng and Orapa. Other people have come from elsewhere and taken the great risk of investing in the Botswana diamond mines. And from the mining proceeds we have built highways, schools, clinics, and hospitals. We have electrified towns and villages and connected water to towns, villages and hamlets. We have sent our children to prestigious universities and institutions around the world. Our economy has granted us a false sense of security of success and wealth; a false sense of importance, when the economy is largely impotent. Yes our economy has stayed vulnerable. It has stayed as a limping economy over-dependent on mining.  In the 70s and 80s families produced their own food though the economy wasn’t doing very well. The level of education was low but the degree of resourcefulness and self-dependency was most impressive. We were producing what went on our plate. Yes we supplemented it with products from stores but we could survive on our own products. 

What has happened in the last ten years is that more arguments by poorly educated persons have been advanced to condemn the quality of education acquired, not just from Botswana institutions but also from international institutions. Arguments have been advanced that the level of unemployment in the country is as a consequence of the kind of education received rather than the kind of economy that we are running as a country. Sadly instead of addressing the source of the problem; the real problem, we have largely shifted the focus and laid blame at the feet of education. This is most unfortunate because in our avoidance of the real issue, it means we cannot address. We are failing to deal with the real problem; with the real issue. The problem is that we are an economy that overly imports and doesn’t produce or exports. This problem is not small. 

Go and look at our supermarkets. Walk along the aisles. Look at the foodstuffs on the shelves. We cannot feed our people. We are eating foreign imported foods. Sweets, biscuits, rice, bread, chocolate, condiments of all types, soaps, perfumes and ointments. We are getting grapes from Israel and oranges from South Africa. Even clothes and the latest fashions are imported from elsewhere. We are a terribly dependent country. We have failed to diversify our economy. The truth of the matter is that we are not a producing economy and instead we are sadly doing nothing about it. We have ran out of ideas. Our attempts to attract investment into the country have failed dismally. We have instead built a solid culture of dependency where our people are spoon-fed from all angles. Our economy is punctuated with freebies from every corner. We have a de facto free education and free health care system. The government ploughs for its citizens. Yes government pays a tractor that farms citizens’ private land. Not only that, it gives them free land, seeds and fertilisers. 

Strangely our success have become a source of our headache. Our success in training thousands of learners in tertiary institutions has resulted with great levels of unemployment. This is not because of any fault of the graduates. They are no different from graduates in other countries. They find themselves facing a unique challenge of chronic levels of unemployment. They are unemployed not because there is a mismatch between their qualification and the available jobs in the market. The mismatch claim is actually a false claim. There are no record jobs without somebody to occupy. At the rate at which we are training and at the rate at which our economy is failing to create jobs there would be absolutely no employment for any graduate in the next 10 years. Lawyers, journalists, doctors, economists, nurses, videographers, pharmacists, engineers will be jobless soon as all sorts of fields are getting congested at an alarming rate. This congestion is as a result of our failure to first admit that our principal problem as a country is unemployment and that we must devote all our energies to developing strategies of solving such unemployment. Our eyes are zoomed into building more tertiary institutions and developing new programmes and curricula as if that would address the problem faced by the country. It won’t. Our biggest problem is unemployment and not lack of relevant education. Let the country focus on creating jobs and industries. Let us root out corruption, nepotism and a now institutionalised culture of fleecing out government of its last thebe. The problem is not education; the problem is the economy!

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The Telegraph October 28

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 28, 2020.