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Students graded ‘0’ for lost exam papers

While the whole country is still in shock over the poor recently released JC results, new investigations by WeekendPost have revealed that a number of students from different schools were graded a 0 mark for exam papers that got lost between the school authorities and Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) officials.

This publication can confirm that all 33 Art students at Marakanelo CJSS in Ncojane Village in the Kgalagadi District got a ‘Fail and Discontinue’ grade in the Art subject; A student got As and Bs plus an X at Mmachibaba CJSS in Ratholo in the Tswapong District and was awarded an overall X for all the subjects; At Rutang CJSS in Tonota, some students were given a 0 marks for mistakes done by officials.

Secretary General for Secondary Sector, Thomas Kajuu confirmed the incidents of at least these three schools. He said they were aware of the irregularities and damned BEC for the poor work. “The question is when and how are they going to grade these poor kids? Will it pose fair marks? And will the public rely on it as authentic?” he questioned.

Kajuu averred that this year the country have registered more Xs than any other year. “And this is not because children did not write…it is mistakes by BEC system.BEC is not competent,” he charged. In an interview, the Minister of Basic Education Unity Dow stated that, “I can confirm that an investigation is ongoing by the BEC to determine how and why the scripts did not reach their destination for marking regarding Marakanelo CJSS case. The chain of custody of the scripts is being investigated.”

She also stated that appropriate action will be determined once the investigation is complete. “There are two possible options; re-writing or grading based on continuous assessment,” said the minister who stated that she might not be aware of many other issues because it is not every irregularity that is brought to the minister’s attention. She highlighted there are procedures in place and that a proper report is also made for records keeping.

According to reports from Marakanelo CJSS, parents of the concerned students were summoned to the school recently where they were told by the School Head, Armstrong Mothibi that their children’s papers got lost after they wrote the examinations. “He told us the papers got lost in Gaborone where children are graded. My daughter got Cs and X for Art,” said one parent who sounded a bit calm adding that, “Ga ke itse gore ke eng ne basa ba fe sengwenyana (I do not know why they did not at least give them an average mark instead of zero).”

When reached for comment, the School Head for Marakanelo, Mothibi lamented that, “We are waiting for the children’s marks from there. They are there at BEC. We have given them the papers, so we are waiting for the grades.” However, when asked to be clear on what could have happened that they were still waiting for the marks when the JC results have already been released, Mothibi lost his temper and snapped, “I know what I am saying, and I mean it. I have worked in the ministry before. Don’t tell me what to say, this issue is still under investigation between our school and BEC officials.”

The School Deputy Head, Lawrence Staphel who is at the centre of the issue as he was the last person to be in possession of the papers on behalf of the school pleaded with the reporter not to go ahead with the story saying the issue is still under investigation. “I can advise you my sister to shelf the article for now. Do not blow the issue out of proportion because it is still internal and has not yet reached the elders’ desks,” he lamented, adding that he was aware that some people were going around sharing internal issues with outsiders just to ruin other people’s reputations.

In an interview with BEC Corporate Communications Manager, Fingile Makgalemele she confirmed the irregularities and stating that as the assessment body they have investigated the issue and still on it with the relevant stakeholders. “BEC advised the school to contact and counsel the affected parties,” she noted. “When results are released they become provisional for six weeks to allow for all queries and enquiries to be attended to by the examining body. Examinations have different issues and we address them as they come, this issue is one of them.”

Makgalemele further advised that the JCE Results are still Provisional Results since they are still within the six week period that all enquiries are addressed and solved by the Council, therefore, BEC is still doing what it needs to do to solve any query that occurred during the 2017 JCE Examination period.
 
Pressed further to clarify on what exactly happened, Makgalemele noted that, “X denotes failure to meet grading requirements for the award of a qualification and these are addressed during the provisional six week period.” On the issue that BEC is not competent, Makgalemele’s response was that BEC is not in a position to address personal opinions.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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