Former Cabinet Minister David Magang has once again took a swipe at the country education, insisting that it is part of the problem which has led to lack of progress in the nation’s economic prosperity.
The Phakalane Estate industrialist stated this in his latest book offering “Delusions of Grandeur Volume 2,” launched this week at Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel. Magang contends in the memoir that a number of factors in the country’s education system from primary up to tertiary level have contributed to poorly trained graduates who are not industry ready.
“All they want is to pass examinations, graduate and start earning an income: the knowledge they gained in university remains in the examination room,” he wrote. “The education system itself more or less aids and abets this habit.”
The controversial now renowned writer pointed out at verity that Botswana’s education system is placed on quantity rather than quality, on the acquisition of the certificates at the expense of expertise, with the result that students are over laden and overextended.
Magang is disappointed by the fact that Botswana’s premier institution of learning, the University of Botswana (UB) does not have printing press which could be used to print valuable scholarly and research papers.
“All the world’s leading citadels of learning-Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, including those of lesser international standing in neighbouring South Africa such as UNISA and University of Cape Town have printing presses,” he stated.
“University presses can double both as a commercial and non-profit, self-promoting venture.”
With the increment of UB academic staff salaries having become a matter of debate in parliament recently, Magang concurs that the salaries paid to the university lectures are pittance and surprisingly much lower that of those who work for government with similar qualifications.
“The salaries of academics in today’s Botswana are simply not attractive. When the medical school lecturers quit working at UB, many of them took up positions at the newly opened medical school in Namibia, not in the West,” said Magang. “We pride ourselves as one of the best economies in Africa yet we cannot even compete with a comparatively worse off neighbour in attracting skilled manpower.”
The former Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources asserts that if Botswana is to improve its quality of education, lecturers should be given reasonable salaries because a well-paid lecturer or a teacher for that matter is a motivated instructor. “In fact, UB lecturers now earn significantly less than equally qualified and experienced people in Government positions, which is paradoxical really as ideally it should be either lecturers are better remunerated or at the very least are on par with their peers in Government,” he said.
The relationship between government and Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) and Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), the two union representing government employed teachers in Botswana have been acrimonious in the past few years, Magang contends that it is part of the problem which leads to poor academic performance. “Teachers occupy a central place in the socio-economic evolution of a society; as such you can neglect them only at society’s detriment,” he stated.
Magang further questions the manner in which the scare skills allowance for chemistry, physics, mathematics and computer science teachers is paid. On top of their basic salaries, chemistry teachers were to get 40 percent; computer science teachers 35 percent; and physics and mathematics teachers 25 percent.
“The measure may have lifted the morale of these few teachers, but other teachers, who were in the majority cried foul,” he said. “Word is they have never been that galvanised for work since then as the impression they get is that they majored in inferior disciplines and were therefore dispensable.”
Magang said the decision should not have been implemented immediately but within six or seven years as it would have given other teachers the opportunity to even pursue ‘demand’ disciplines. “Another irony about the scare skills allowance was that it applied to degree holders only, as though the scarcity related to the status of the qualification and not to the job category as such,” he expressed.
Magang noted that the money that higher learning institutions, UB in particular puts in its Research and Development (R&D) is embarrassingly low according to international standards. Magang expressed that consequent to this approach, Botswana has become an economy of buyers and sellers, as majority of goods are imported from neighbouring countries.
Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.
According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reachingÂ WeekendPostÂ shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.
In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.
The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.
This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publicationâ€™s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, â€śas you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,â€ť she said.
She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.
Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.
Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.
Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.
â€śIt is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,â€ť he toldÂ WeekendPost, adding that â€śwhen a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolvedâ€ť.
Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.
The impacts of climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity every year and this is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. African CEOs in the Global South are finally coming to the party on how to tackle the crisis.
Following the completion of COP27 in Egypt recently, CEOs of Africa DFIs converged in Botswana for the CEO Forum of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions. One of the key themes was on green financing and building partnerships for resource mobilization in financing SDGs in Africa
A report; “Weathering the storm; African Development Banks response to Covid-19” presented shocking findings during the seminar. Among them; African DFI’s have proven to be financially resilient, and they are fast shifting to a green transition and it’s financing.
COO, CEDA, James Moribame highlighted that; “Everyone needs food, shelter and all basic needs in general, but climate change is putting the achievement of this at bay. “It is expensive for businesses to do business, for instance; it is much challenging for the agricultural sector due to climate change, and the risks have gone up. If a famer plants crops, they should be ready for any potential natural disaster which will cost them their hard work.”
According to Moribame, Start-up businesses will forever require help if there is no change.
“There is no doubt that the Russia- Ukraine war disrupted supply chains. SMMEs have felt the most impact as some start-up businesses acquire their materials internationally, therefore as inflation peaks, this means the exchange rate rises which makes commodities expensive and challenging for SMMEs to progress. Basically, the cost of doing business has gone up. Governments are no longer able to support DFI’s.”
Moribame shared remedies to the situation, noting that; “What we need is leadership that will be able to address this. CEOs should ensure companies operate within a framework of responsible lending. They also ought to scout for opportunities that would be attractive to investors, this include investors who are willing to put money into green financing. Botswana is a prime spot for green financing due to the great opportunity that lies in solar projects. ”
Technology has been hailed as the economy of the future and thus needs to be embraced to drive operational efficiency both internally and externally.
Executive Director, bank of Industry Nigeria, Simon Aranou mentioned that for investors to pump money to climate financing in Africa, African states need to be in alignment with global standards.
“Do what meets world standards if you want money from international investors. Have a strong risk management system. Also be a good borrower, if you have a loan, honour the obligation of paying it back because this will ensure countries have a clean financial record which will then pave way for easier lending of money in the future. African states cannot just be demanding for mitigation from rich countries. Financing needs infrastructure to complement it, you cannot be seating on billions of dollars without the necessary support systems to make it work for you. Domestic resource mobilisation is key. Use public money to mobilise private money.” He said.
For his part, the Minster of Minister of Entrepreneurship, Karabo Gare enunciated that, over the past three years, governments across the world have had to readjust their priorities as the world dealt with the effects and impact of the COVID 19 pandemic both to human life and economic prosperity.
“The role of DFIs, during this tough period, which is to support governments through countercyclical measures, including funding of COVID-19 related development projects, has become more important than ever before. However, with the increasingly limited resources from governments, DFIs are now expected to mobilise resources to meet the fiscal gaps and continue to meet their developmental mandates across the various affected sectors of their economies.” Said Gare.