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Excellence Awards – Our education thermometer

Publishing Date : 25 July, 2017

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The annual Botswana Examination Council (BEC) awards which are organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) are on their 8th year since inception. There should be no doubt, they are an excellent concept, with room for improvement!

While the idea of the awards is a commendable and excellent one, the concern now should be whether the awards have achieved their intended objectives. We have seen over the years, the best overall performers from across the country coming to the city for a night of splendour with the who is who, including the President of the Republic, where they are awarded for their top notch performance; and we have seen how they get offered lucrative scholarship deals to study at the best universities around the world – this is commendable.  
Our fear though is that, this potentially inspirational undertaking may lose colour if we appear to only focus on the winners – that is the star performers.

The majority of the students, whom we submit were the reason why the Awards were introduced as a way of motivating them, are still left out. Our deduction is based on the Year to year dismal performance at most of the government schools – especially those in the rural areas. Indeed, there are rare cases of exceptional performers from these areas, but the broader picture should also be given attention with the help of these awards. We are of the view that the Awards – or the process before the actual Awards – could be enhanced to bring those lagging behind into the bracket. The Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) is doing a splendid job, and with the type of capacity and expertise they have, they could expand the horizon.

We are of the view that the initiative has not reached the entire intended audience – or at least a representative target. Only a few are well acquainted with it and as long as this is the case, we will see no change in the performance of our beloved young ones. BEC needs to involve more stakeholders to make the Awards well known in schools, and there is need for demonstrable proceeds so that even the doubting thomases can see. Teachers, parents, media and leaders should start mainstreaming the effects of these Awards. Most speeches must incorporate something to do with this Awards and how they have changed lives. Students must know that Excellence Awards rewards, and for this to happen, BEC must sell the concept to schools around the country. There is no doubt that in most areas, most students are not aware of the Awards, but they are a good motivation tool.

BEC and MoESD should share resources like they have been doing and work on a strategy that will push students off their seats.  The initiative has to reach all public schools in all the corners of the country, and what better way than to intensify efforts in publicising the initiative! Both parties need to ensure that the awards are the driving factor in academic performance of all students in public schools. The idea has to be sold to all the students; the idea should be given a face, such that all students are inspired to be part of it. Every learner in public schools should constantly dream of of a lucrative award on the other end, a robust approach should be used to instil that dream in our kids. The idea should be taken to them, through school visitations by the authorities as well as past achievers who can testify to the rewards of academic excellence.

It has been 5 years since the first awards; BEC should share with the public, especially other students on how the previous winners are faring with their studies and or their careers. Most of the beneficiaries from the inaugural year (2010) to date should be about to complete or have already completed by now. The way in which the awards are conducted do not necessarily inspire all pupils especially those who are in remote areas. Over the past years, the awards have evidently been dominated by schools in urban areas like Naledi Senior School, St Joseph College and Mater Spei College to mention but a few.

It is very important that the culture of excellence and the desire to succeed is instilled in all pupils, hence the need to make it mandatory for those pupils at both primary, secondary and tertiary to get to know and understand the significance of Excellence Awards. We must be worried by the absence of rural schools at the Excellence awards. As a tool, it is also showing us a problem that needs to be addressed in our education system. Another great worry as already noted should be that the students from remote areas rarely have access to information, including that concerning the awards. Government should hasten to that need and move swiftly to take all the necessary information about the initiative and preach it where it is needed most.



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