Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Universities should take the lead in renewal of Botswana’s public education  

There is need for a new model that would govern the financing of Botswana’s public education.

Not only is the current system unsustainable and outdated, it is also wasteful.

But perhaps worse is the fact that the model is not fit for purpose in a competitive 21st century.

The current model lacks transparency and allows two much room for political meddle and administrative abuse in the form of discretions.

The current system should be restructured and be transformed.

Throwing money at the problem and hoping it will be resolved or at best go away is nothing short of cynicism.

Botswana’s education system is fast deteriorating.

In the region Zimbabwe and South Africa retain an upper hand – South Africa through Wits University, University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, University of Johannesburg and also the University of Kwa Zulu Natal.

In Botswana efforts are on-going to revitalize the University of Botswana, and at least according to people in business leadership, based on calibre of graduates they produce, UB is well ahead of the pack.

Much of what private universities get in sponsorship is a result of a hidden quota system that is politically motivated.

One former minister once equated the system to selling students to the owners of these universities who in turn pay kickbacks to those motivating for them at the cabinet table.

University of Botswana should fastrack its transformation process.

The engineering BIUST and agricultural BUAN should be combined into one.

Botswana’s deteriorating public education carries with it national security risks.

A number of leading business people in Botswana have been voicing concerns that they are not able to get the right people for their internship programmes where young graduates are prepared at entry level to become future managers and executives.

The concerns range from semi-illiteracy among graduates to those who simply cannot stitch together a sentence.

The same business leaders have been near unanimous in their commendation of the University of Botswana.

This is not to say standards at the University of Botswana have not dropped.

They have significantly dropped.

But at least there is a conscious attempt to get that corrected.

There used to be a time when the University of Botswana was the useful vessel of change.

That time can still be brought back.

It can only happen by paying attention to today’s societal problems and making the university grapple with solving them.

Harking on nostalgia will not bring back the good old days. Otherwise we risk making such a glorious past feel like a myth, which it isn’t.

Universities should arm graduates to live in a 21st century.

Universities should lead renewal and revival. Ideas have always been the basis and propellent of modernization.

Universities should not promote rote learning. They should be about research. They should challenge students to think outside the box and to provide solutions to practical everyday challenges that they can relate with.

It is pathetic to see that for some universities and indeed many of the professors, Covid 19 did not provide any lessons.

They want to carry on as if its business as usual. Society will not tolerate that, simply because it is raw elitism. As Mwalimu Nyerere once said, universities are only useful if they serve the societies, especially the poor members of society.

University professors should use the pandemic to come up with new yardsticks and benchmarks for doing things.

The pandemic should by now have provided university professors with an opportunity to rethink the world they are living in.

Professors have to adapt to survive and also to stay relevant.

Or else they will be swept under the fast moving new world.


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