Senior officials from Ministry of Basic Education led by Minister, Dr Unity Dow, have warned the nation not to expect radical changes in the Junior Certificates (JC) results in the near future. This comes in the heels of a dismal showing of the JC results.
A panel of ministry officials which accompanied the minister comprising of her deputy, Moiseraela Goya; Permanent Secretary, Grace Muzila and Botswana Examinations Council Executive Secretary, Prof Brian Mokopakgosi relayed what could be exasperating news to parents who take their children to public schools at a press conference this week.
Minister Dow has conceded that there is a disturbing disparity between rural and urban schools, which she said is caused by various factors including the involvement of parents in urban areas compared to those in rural areas. Another aspect which Dow added as a factor is the socio-economic variable.
From the Top 10 performing schools in Botswana; six of them are from Gaborone and the other four from; Orapa, Jwaneng, Francistown and Selibe Phikwe, which are all urban areas. Meanwhile the bottom 10 schools are all from rural areas, the worst performer being Tshimologo Junior Secondary School in Kalfontein, Ghanzi District. The recently released results indicate that 88.8 percent of pupils at Tshimologo JSS failed to get a grade of C or better.
The top 10 performing schools have also been experiencing decline of their own. In 2015 the top three schools Nanogang JSS, Orapa JSS and Makhubu JSS registered pass rate of 82.9 percent, 79.5 percent and 73.8 percent respectively. This is year the three schools garnered a pass rate of 72.1 percent (Nanogang JSS), 68.6 percent (Orapa JSS) and 63.4 percent (Makhubu JSS) respectively.
Although the results have been dwindling since 2010, and took a worse turn in 2012, Dow said she has no idea why the schools are performing dismally. Since 2012, after the introduction of a new syllabus and marking system, the JC results which were released never bettered those of the preceding year; actually they are becoming consistently worse in subsequent years.
“In the absence of an in-depth research into the root cause, we cannot certainly pin-point a singular cause for this,” Dow told the press conference earlier this week. “A tracer study of the candidates who progress from PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examinations) for instance can help us understand if pupils improve or become poorer as they transit from primary to secondary,” she said.
Dow said the tracer study will be used to establish various factors among them; if they are accepting into mainstream, pupils who should otherwise be receiving specialized education, if the automatic progression had an impact on pupils who proceed to the next stage before having mastered the one they are currently in, the influencing social factors on the subject choice of young people and how it affects the way they perform in examinations.
Muzila added that government is already working on addressing disparity between rural and urban schools by prioritising resource allocation in their budgeting. “It will take a long term to see the desired results, but we are putting measures in place to ensure that results improve going forward,” she said.
THE NEW MARKING AND GRADING SYSTEM
In 2010 government introduced the revised Junior Secondary curriculum and was first used on the JC examination of 2012. BEC was required to come up with new assessment designs that are aligned to the philosophical and outcome intentions of the new curriculum. “The new system is completely different from the previous one. For you to grade a student you look at the manner in which he answered the question, not just looking at whether the answer is right or wrong,” said Prof Mokopakgosi.
The new grading system has attracted a lot of criticism of the general public with some opining that it is designed to fail the students while some are of the view that it does not reflect the real performance of the pupils. The introduction of the new curriculum came at a point when BEC was in the process of changing the assessment at JC with regard to the way syllabuses were graded. Starting with 2012 examinations, JC syllabuses were graded using a Standards-Based grading procedure and not the Norm-Referenced grading procedure used in previous examinations.
According to BEC, the move to adopt a Standards-Based grading procedure was motivated by the fact that it provides more informative evaluation of student’s performance and allows year to year comparisons of national performance patterns.
The Norm-Referenced grading procedure focuses on rating a student’s performance relative to that of others in the same cohort, while the Standards-Based grading procedure shows the extent to which the candidates achieved specified outcomes of learning. This allows for detailed reporting on actual capabilities of candidates since their performance is judged against defined standards. Such reports provide information that is critical for informing the education system, policy and school improvement initiatives.
Meanwhile other school of thought is that government should make pre -school mandatory so as to give all pupils a chance to undergo early childhood mentoring. Nonetheless the Minister said, “Government does not have enough resources to help schools in rural areas. We wish we could be able to do that [make pre-school mandatory] but we do not have resources.”
Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.
These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.
The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”
The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.
“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”
Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.
The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.
Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.
One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.
But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.
One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.
Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.
In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.
Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.
Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.
United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.
According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.
“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.
A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.
Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.
In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”
While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.
Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility. Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.
For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies. European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.
It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.
The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.
“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”
“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.” The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”