Sunday, October 17, 2021

What Dow didn’t reveal about her Ministry’s much-touted plan

In the telling of the Minister of Basic Education, Unity Dow, “2017/18 financial year was the year when my Ministry intensified implementation of the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan following approval of the strategy in May 2015.”

To the knowledge of people with intimate knowledge of both ETSSP and operations of the education system, “intensified” is the last word anyone would want to conventionally use within the context of the plan’s timelines and objectives. In fairness to the ministry though, some progress has been made. However, much like the state-of-the-nation and budget speeches, ETSSP has become just another government document that is long on beautiful and vitalising promises but very short on prompt and actual delivery.

One of the milestones for 2017-2018 in the plan was “50 percent implementation of early childhood care and education programmes and action plans in all of regions by the end of 2018.” On the basis of the figures that Dow quoted when she presented her budget estimates to parliament, her ministry has failed to attain “100 percent national coverage in reception classes by the end of 2018.” In her speech to the Committee of Supply ÔÇô the name parliament assumes when it considers requests for annual funding by ministries ÔÇô Dow said that “the number of primary schools offering pre-school increased from 472 to 571 schools in 2018 out of 755 primary schools.” What she said next doesn’t provide cast-iron guarantee that there will be 100 percent national coverage by the end of this year: “The remaining 213 schools will be considered for introduction of the programme during the remaining years of NDP 11.” Schools that are covered still have to contend with the business-as-usual intrigue that attends every public procurement process a thebe over P1 million. A bungled tender has frustrated the delivery of learning materials to 266 schools and the matter is now before the Gaborone High Court.  

According to the ETSSP, by 2018, secondary education key performance indicators and targets (including pass rates) were to show a 50 percent improvement. However, as examination results of the Botswana General Certificate for Secondary Education and Junior Certificate of Education show, the pass rates are nowhere near that target. By now, a teaching council should long have been established through an act of parliament and by the end of this year, such council was to have licensed 50 percent of teachers. Two years ago, the council was to have developed an assessment and accreditation system for teacher education and professional development in accordance with policies of the Botswana Qualifications Authority and the Botswana Examinations Council. That has not happened.

There are many more things that were supposed to have happened by the end of this year but haven’t. In terms of the ETSSP, an e-learning programme was to be implemented in all schools; 90 percent of all teachers were to have undertaken training for remedial teaching; all teachers were to have been trained in ICT in teaching and learning; 50 percent of secondary schools’ learning facilities were to have been aligned to modern standards with adequate infrastructure and materials to meet the teaching needs of teachers and the learning needs of all students; 100 percent of schools were to have trained staff on issues of security and safety of children; a 2mbps education network for all secondary schools was to have been set up; technicians for school-based ICT maintenance workshop was to have been identified; e-content was to have been developed and rolled out to 100 percent of subjects in senior secondary as well as tertiary and vocational education training institutions; based on 2014 figures, there would have been a 75 percent reduction in dispute and grievance files; and, in order to develop “confident, globally and locally competitive teachers”, 50 percent of teacher trainees were to have been enrolled on undergraduate degree courses.

It is understandable why the ministry would not want to damn itself with low expectations but it was always unrealistic for it to set lofty efficiency targets without first eliminating deficiencies that have always held it back. The plan was to be implemented between 2015 and 2020. Sources say that the slow pace of implementation has caused a lot of frustration.

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