Wednesday, September 23, 2020

We’re failing Botswana: A protest against the educated class

Authentic education engenders transformative self-awareness and increases human capacity to identify and assertively respond to existential challenges. Meaningfully educated people have impeccable moral courage, and are the unadulterated conscience – the moral voice of society. They passionately create propitious conditions for their own empowerment and that of posterity. They’re inspiring problem solvers and transformers. Their burning desire to abolish disabling conditions stems hugely from their profound commitment to the welfare of fellow citizens. Humanising education patriotically rattles the social conscience and powerfully influences citizens to be ethically and morally accountable to each other.

Given our persistent failure to surmount our numerous challenges, it’s doubtful if we’re properly educated to measure up to the afore-cited expectations. Despite our enormous opportunities, we’re perturbingly failing to surpass ourselves and impress the nation. Our lacklustre performance as politicians, workers, parents, teachers, students, media workers, religious leaders and community builders convincingly suggest that something is tragically wrong. It has strangely emasculated us and caused us to sabotage ourselves and Botswana. Many of our people used to radiate a healthy conscience, wisdom, a sense of purpose, integrity and dignity; and were bubbling with hope, energy and profound desire to fight for change. Lo and behold, they’ve virtually given up on the country. They’ve fatalistically abandoned our desired future expressed in Vision 2016.

We keep projecting ourselves as patriots, yet we lack basic self-discipline and an obsessional desire to commit ourselves to critical things that can leverage our opportunities into massive progress for all. Our obvious lack of commitment to duty also stems in part from four decades of dependency on Mother Nature, government and foreign donors. Many among us wield gargantuan power and influence, yet they can’t offer the common man the very least, the bottom-line, the basic requirements that should serve as a foundation for decent living.

Botswana has expensively produced a fairly good pool of graduates some of whom are associated with prestigious overseas universities and colleges. Despite this wide diversity of academically talented people, we’re unable to credibly organise ourselves and focus our resources and energy on strategic priorities that can earn us competitive advantages. We’ve let ourselves and the “unenlightened” down! And because we’ve totally lost confidence in ourselves, everybody is desperately waiting for vice president Ian Khama to become president and fix our self-imposed limitations. Our current levels of dependency are detrimental to our goal of turning Botswana into a productive and prosperous nation. A new motivational leadership should emerge and ambitiously rattle our cages to get us out of our comfort zones. Such a leadership should put pressure on Batswana so that they can find viable solutions to our pressing problems. The time for baby-sitting and patronising Batswana is over. Every Motswana, right from the men and women at the top down to the common citizen, should now be required to be responsible and justify their existence.

Educated people, who are expected to make things happen, still helplessly complain about organisations’ lack of implementation capacity. This cancerous disillusionment is even expressed by senior people with the mandate and authority to fix capacity constraints! We still lament our leaders’ lack of requisite skills and moral capacity to drive the productivity crusade. We’re still told we need benevolent expatriates to guide us. But this is what’s annoyingly baffling: every now and then managers and supervisors attend productivity enhancement workshops, and are theoretically fluent in concepts like process improvement, organisational re-engineering, PMS, PBRS, WITs and Scorecard, all which they borrowed pari passu from overseas institutions. Yet our service delivery record doesn’t correlate with the enormous time we expend learning. At 40 years, we should convincingly display maturity in dealing with our negative conditions. Our educated class should produce results that are commensurate with our enormous opportunities.

Countries like Singapore were at par with us when we attained independence. Now Singapore is ten times more than what we are. The Singaporeans took themselves seriously to attain the status of enviable giants. But we’re still scandalously trapped in self-belittling beggary. We can’t even clean our streets , or get to work on time! We’re so overly preoccupied with self-praise, but we can’t impressively answer simple questions: How come our diamond wealth hasn’t trickled down to and transformed the despicable conditions of our neglected street people? Why has our education system failed to instil a critical and reflexive consciousness in us, and cause us to energetically fight for individual and collective empowerment?

Our huge limitation is that we learn for the sake of knowing; we don’t learn for practical understanding and self-transformation. But without “operacy skills” (for translating knowledge into tangible results), our massive educational credentials won’t positively support our role in development. And if people in critical positions lack sufficient authority to produce results, practically it means they lack a mandate to change undesirable situations. Thus, the problem of upward creep is rife in local organisations. This means even directors of departments powerlessly or irresponsibly refer some urgent decisions to their passive superordinates. The latter aren’t always available to tackle critical situations instantly. They habitually overstay in long unproductive meetings they use as a convenient excuse for non-performance.

Our incessant failure to apply knowledge isn’t only germane to our challenge of economic productivity. Our academics and intellectuals have abysmally failed to use their hard-earned education to fix opposition politics. The opposition is in a perpetual crisis despite the fact that it is under the powerful grip of university-based educated male elite who are highly looked up to. Instead of consistently concentrating on improving the welfare of the abandoned and forgotten masses, the opposition (which has become an enigmatic sysiphus) and the declining BDP are badly bogged down in counter-productive power struggles.

Why is insouciance, self-doubt and self-rejection deepening throughout Botswana? What has happened to our educated youth who are supposed to be the progenitors and purveyors of inspiring values and ethos? Why can’t the educated rise to the occasion by providing visionary and inspirational leadership, and miraculously extrude the moribund opposition from a shameful political quagmire? The same legitimate accusation applies to the inferior leadership of dysfunctional NGOs and the ineffectual civil society movement. The calamitous decline of NGOs indicates that the so-called educated leadership has badly failed to guide them and keep them intact and relevant.

For far-reaching changes to occur, we must produce committed and results-oriented leaders. But on their own, leaders won’t deliver the best results unless there’s an uncorrupted intellectual vanguard which can progressively conscientise the populace, and influence them to demand superior treatment. Our consumer movement is politically weak to assist in this regard. Thus, the patent lack of political assertiveness on the part of the irresponsible opposition, the productivity movement and civil society organisation raises serious doubts about the effectiveness of our 40 years of independence. Independence means our institutions should unquestionably exhibit self-confidence, creative intelligence, self-drive, patriotism, democratic behaviour, productivity consciousness and authentic pride. But these values won’t just happen magically. An authentically responsible educated class should infuse and institutionalise them in organisations. And such educated people should respectfully subjugate their selfish desire for power to the total liberation and empowerment of the criminally dispossessed underdog.

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