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.”
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.
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.
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.”