The Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) has weighed on the continued poor performance of students at Junior and Senior Schools levels. The Union’s General Secretary, Topias Marenga says the educational embarrassment is not new; it has been a national trend for some years now. In a BOPEU position paper Marenga says this year we continue to see more youngsters at grade D being advanced to BGCSE.
“This effectively translating to the poor performance we have just experienced. Unfortunately this educational embarrassment is not only about the moment, it is about the bleak future of generations as being built by an education system that does not address immediate concerns with the urgency they arise; the urgency they so vehemently require,” he said.
To address this fiasco, BOPEU proposes that Botswana must act on an urgent basis to amicably find resolve. “As a country we cannot take comfort in the subject of deteriorating education system without visible action. BOPEU appreciates that a number of efforts have been made to improve the condition of service for the teachers. That notwithstanding, must tally with an improvement of results.”
Marenga says his unions continues to implore that it is time the Government of Botswana urgently implements the three education Ministries system.
“It is our view and conviction that dividing the Ministry of Education into three functional special areas to serve the country and the people of Botswana, will ignite better performance and bring about an improvement in the results.”
“This is because, there will be more focus by the assigned Ministry to see an improvement in their area, as they will be each held accountable for a more manageable chunk of the Ministry. This will also bring efficiencies in the Management systems within the Ministries, extending to the teaching staff. It is our believe then that this will bring not only peace and harmony amongst the teaching staff, but will most importantly drive the motivation to achieve the desired results envisaged for the future as embedded in the vision of this country.
This will further cultivate and produce the zeal and energy needed to move beyond today with outmost vigour and produce the right quality of educated, skilled and upright citizens to take this country forward,” Marenga says.
According to the BOPEU Secretary General, concentration on education is an urgent need; in the short term it will alleviate the high unemployment rate which the country is struggling to curb, and in the long term it will continue to be a positive indicator for growing the economy. Marenga says our education results cannot be separated from the labour market dynamics because all these function within the labour supply chain.
He observed that developing a quality education system has its impact translating in a productive labour force, and the opposite is otherwise an unproductive sector coupled with a population that is highly dependent on government, which would not survive elsewhere.
BOPEU through Marenga deducts that poor results, which lead to high unemployment is acerbated by our inability as a society to create alternative sustainable employment means.
“Citizens are all expecting jobs from the government and naturally so, when failed by the government education system, it becomes almost impossible to become a part of the main stream society where they can compete and create employment for themselves and others. We appreciate that our ever growing population has not been kind to accommodate the level of educational developments needed to grow this country, and we are also of the view that action has been very minimal.”
According to BOPEU, the continual lack of Botswana to prioritise education, if allowed to continue, will bring disastrous results in the end.
Marenga says no one wishes to see a revolution of young people in future addressing the issues of unfairness and educational injustices perpetuated by the past, and hence there is an urgent need to resolve this disaster.
The BOPEU position is that the Ministry of Education in its current format is unnecessarily huge for a country that has developed like Botswana, “our firm proposal continues to be that it is high time the Ministry of Education is divided into the three Ministries.”â€¨
BOPEU proposes a Ministry of Pre-Primary and Primary education; A full Minister at this Ministry will be in charge of both Day Care, Nursery, Pre-School, Reception and Primary Education. These will include the necessary operatives covering the Teaching Staff, Teaching Administrators, Researchers, and Directors amongst others. This Ministry like the two others will also be responsible for safe guarding and taking care of its own infrastructure, study materials and necessary resources amongst other things.
BOPEU further proposes the Ministry of Low and High Secondary Education; At this ministry a full Minister will be in full charge of the ever growing Secondary Schools and the associated challenges related to managing a teenager. This growth of Secondary Schools is a result of a growing population and every growth in population brings its own challenges.
The Minister at this Ministry will also address the plight of the Teachers who for a long time have asked to be engaged in finding resolve to their woes. Their appeals for engagement on welfare, housing, allowances, terms of employment and progressions etc. continues to be almost impossible to resolve due to the hectic schedule of a Minister who has to run such a huge Ministry.
Last they propose the Ministry of Tertiary Learning: They opine that in neighbouring countries, Tertiary Education is up in flames, riots are a daily affair. There is a Setswana saying that “ere obona bodiba bojeleng ngwana waga mmago, o bo kakologe”. Back home in Botswana, at the time of issuing this communique, several Technical Colleges around the country have been closed due to strikes and fear of escalating violence, Private institutions are no exceptions.
The University of Botswana is forever in clashes either between students and the Government or the students and the University of Botswana Management. These scenarios cannot be simply ignored or wished away as they are a clear manifestation of things not going right. We are not apportioning blame, we are simply raising a red flag that the government of Botswana needs to act progressively and with outmost urgency to ensure that different needs are handled with the due care.
“Though every Ministry will be independent from each other and receiving its budget directly and independently from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Botswana Qualifications Authority (which has just been established by merging both the Tertiary Council and the Botswana Training Authority) should together with the Botswana Human Resource Council be tasked with close monitoring of standards at the respective Ministries,” Marenga says in his position paper.
“This will simply be done through not only examination results but also through the relevance of subjects in each secondary so as to ascertain if they meet global development and education demands. This will further ensure that concerns over the Botswana Examination Council grading system and associated worries will be addresses at this level and hence reducing conflict of interest which often unnecessarily result in blame shifting and blame apportioning.
Furthermore this will inform the relevancy of upgrading the syllabus on regular basis align it with global emerging trends. We can’t be holding unto a 1966 syllabus model in the year 2016 and yet expect 2016 developmental relevance.”
BOPEU is of the view that the issue of compensating the poor performance of our children with the constant and continued lowering of the uptake thresh holds does not serve as a solution to an ailing education system. It stated that what is important rather is to build efficiencies within the management and operational systems of concerned entities and ensure that sustainable solutions take course. In addition they opine that automatic promotion of students will surely not be necessary when the right structuring, the right attitude, the right energy is exerted or ignited within our systems.
“Independent Ministries will have the prerogative to do all it takes to remain relevant and competitive where they are held to account. With proper Monitoring systems in place we see a leap from the current mediocrity to an excellent performing system. Within this system the nation should not be ashamed to repeat students who fail giving them sufficient chances to mature and perform better before being progressed.”
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.”