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.”
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.