Junior certificate results released this week after long delays by Botswana Examination Council (BEC) have brought into sharp focus the problems besieging our education. The results call for serious introspection to reverse the appalling situation.
Less than half of the 38 385 candidates who sat for the examination (only 40.7 percent) made the pass mark while 22 751 failed, representing 59.3 percent of the total number. Never mind that only a lowly 47 percent passed in the previous year. This is shocking! One shudders to imagine what goes on in classrooms for schools to churn out failures at this rate as schools re-opened around the country last week marking the beginning of yet another academic year. For the thousands that failed, the future is bleak. Now we learn of students committing suicide across the country due to the deplorable JC results.
We should, however, not claim that we did not see this coming. The Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) has for a long time paid lip service to and failed to address problems in our education system, some of which have resulted in a protracted stand-off between the employer and teachers. We learn that the student/teacher ratios are still unacceptably high in some schools, including even instances where a single teacher has to attend to approximately 50 learners. This far surpasses experts’ recommendation for the appropriate number of learners per teacher. Studies have demonstrated that overcrowding of students compromises the quality of their learning as it reduces their access to learning aids and the teacher’s individual attention. It has repeatedly been said that the teaching fraternity is one of the most over-subscribed fields in terms of graduates. Was this a lie?
It is disheartening that in some instances, pupils walk very long distances to access educational facilities because there are no schools near their place of abode. This also contributes to overcrowding where a single school services a large area. Government should build more facilities to arrest this problem. Despite that, teachers have been on a long break, Teaching Service Management (TSM) is still sorting out transfers for teachers despite that the school calendar is already underway. Even then, resources like text books have not yet been supplied in some schools as the ministry promises this will be completed by mid February.
We note with sadness that many students in government schools go for long stretches of time without prescribed textbooks.
The importance of textbooks to learners cannot be overemphasized.
Until this issue is addressed, we cannot reverse the tide of what are clearly deteriorating standards in our education system.
Dilapidated facilities due to the ongoing effects of the economic downturn that has forced government to undertake budget cuts are a common and embarrassing sight. While we are sympathetic to the financial challenges the economy is facing, it is unacceptable that government would reduce spending on education facilities as this would compromise the future of our youth. Many government schools, including in urban areas, still do not have running water.
For many of them electricity is luxury.
Toilets are an eyesore.
This undermines the learning environment.
Ironically, even in these hard times, government continues to increase spending on security organs.
Even as we highlight the challenges faced by the learners as they begin another academic year, we are equally concerned about the continued stand-off between the Ministry of Education and teachers over their conditions of service. It goes without saying that a demoralized teacher is likely to take this to the classroom, which in turn will compromise the quality of the graduate s/he produces. Therefore, we would like to encourage the parties to expedite the resolution of their differences, which have been outstanding for far too long.
Last, but not least, we would like to implore parents of the learners and the community at large to take interest in the education of their children instead of resigning themselves to mere spectators.
Teachers alone cannot manage to raise good students without the support of the community as they only spend part of the day with the learners. The corporate world and business community should also come on board to support learners in communities where they do business, through initiatives like the MoESD’s Adopt-a-School, as these are their future clients and customers.
Finally we would like to wish all learners a prosperous new year and urge them to take their education seriously to secure a bright future.