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FCE CLOSURE: Setting the record straight

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has dismally and deliberately failed in its operations and among its worst performances are the following;

The closure (permanent closure, not transformation), of Francistown College of Education, without consultation of the Francistown College of Education staff.


As much as the government has the power to do whatever it deems right concerning government institutions and operations, the closure of FCE and other colleges of Education is the worst decision.  The stale and flawed research, which is supposed to have informed the whole process, needs to be taken to task, since such a drastic decision cannot be based on one research which was carried in 2006, which also excluded the people on the ground.

One is inclined to state that the research in question has loop holes since it did not cover the necessary population including Hon Buti Billy and others who were in Francistown City Council then, as well as college lecturers in Francistown College of Education. It is also surprising that a whole ministry can take such a decision without visiting the college and getting the ideas of the college community and yet the ministry preaches open door policy.


The research according to reports, has indicated that: There is mismatch in supply and demand of graduates: the unit costs of the colleges of Education were unacceptable and absorbing graduates from colleges of Education was a challenge…the employment outcomes had deteriorated markedly for graduates from the University of Botswana.


The findings of this study and the analysis thereof, has failed to indicate and justify their findings, which were later nullified by the same Tertiary Education Council Report on Transformation of Public Non-Autonomous Tertiary Education Institutions (2010). The 2006 research has proved to be frivolous and misleading. The following are adequate enough to show that the study alluded to is flawed;

There is still shortage of teachers both in secondary and primary schools. The ratio of teacher-student (as per the Kedikilwe Commission; 1994) is still unacceptable, which ends up causing compromised learning and performance in general.


There are still teachers in the rural areas who teach more than one grade.

There are still teachers who are trained for Secondary school teaching but now found teaching in Primary schools, the methodologies of which they were not trained in.


The issue of subject groupings in Secondary schools, which disadvantages students, since it forces them to take subjects they do not want and are useless to their career paths. This is also a concern and a contributory factor to low performance in BGCSE results, because students are not allowed to choose the subjects which are in line with their career interests.

In addition, the same subjects block them from pursuing their careers, by pulling them down and reducing their credits/points. And thus depriving them entrance into tertiary institutions. This then contributes to the mismatch and low performance, the cause of which is shortage of teachers in the country, to offer all subjects in all schools.


The advertisement seeking for temporary teachers for both primary and secondary schools also confirms that there is shortage of teachers.


There are some University graduates (trained in other fields) who are teaching in primary schools.


All these are happening due to lack of consultation, that has become a norm in the MOESD.


The most fascinating part is that the government is closing Colleges of Education and at the same time, allows private institutions to continue training teachers, this is a serious contradiction. It is also a way of compromising further, the already compromised quality of education in the country, because some of the private institutions, offer degrees on part time basis for a two year duration. One wonders if this is not a deliberate move to favour the private institutions which are owned by some influential people in the country. This needs to be investigated and dealt with accordingly.


Other countries are upgrading institutions to higher levels, so as to make them accessible to their citizenry and internationally, but Botswana decides to make them extinct. A lot of benchmarking and marketing of Colleges of Education has been done, with the intention of admitting international/foreign students for fresh training or upgrading, that has evaporated as private institutions have now been given the mandate.

Countries are now talking globalization, where graduates of any country can be employable anywhere in the world, but Botswana is still cocooning her graduates. Why not upgrade and export human resources to other countries, rather than destroy the future citizenry of this country, which is what the country is doing now.


Now to set the record straight, there was never consultation with Francistown College community, be it oral or written. The only thing that happened was visits from Training and Development officers, who went to FCE to coerce staff.  In reaction to this, the college community requested for documentation that will help them understand what is going on, but it was never availed up to now.


Some lecturers at FCE, also tried to engage the current Permanent Secretary, who visited the college briefly (about 15 minutes). He also failed to address the issue, but instead promised to send a document which will give a road map of what the intentions about the college are and that the ministry will also include some staff members in planning for what they call transformation, which they never did. The professional and patriotic lecturers went further to try and engage the Minister of Education, who also failed to give them a hearing until they lastly resorted to engaging the office of the president, which promised to revert to them in vain.


In short, there has never been any form of consultation whatsoever and up to now, FCE staff do not have the slightest idea of what is happening and are now disturbed about their jobs security, or are they going to suffer serious emotional distress like it happened to the then Lobatse College of Education staff when it was closed? Are they going to find themselves displaced and deployed in areas or places that are going to render them irrelevant?


The MOESD has always deliberately neglected colleges of Education. No single Minister of Education has ever visited FCE, even on pastoral basis. The welfare of the lecturers on issues like accommodation, has always been a concern. Most lecturers do not have accommodation, those who are accommodated are in dilapidated houses which have also been declared health hazards.

Even at Education Pitsos, nothing has ever been said about colleges of Education. The focus has always been on basic education, it was at same where the former Minister stated that teachers (basic education) who do not have accommodation, should look for private accommodation, the rentals of which shall be subsidized, this was never the case for Colleges of Education lecturers, who are expected to pay unsubsidized- high rentals in privately owned houses to allow them to execute their duties, and then later be charged for financial embarrassment.  

 
Another issue that confirms that the lecturers in Colleges of Education are punished for their PATRIOTISM and PROFESSIONALISM, because they have always believed in consultation, is being deliberately disadvantaged in the LEVELS OF OPERATION exercise. This has belittled their status by being remunerated far much less than their own products in primary and secondary schools. This is demoralizing and showing that there is a lot that is not going well in the MOESD.

The Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) has on many instances also tried to engage the former Minister of Education and Skills Development, together with the former Permanent Secretary, on the FCE closure after reading about it from the newspapers and also on the issue of ‘Levels of Operation’ at its earliest stage, but the Hon. Minister kept on postponing the meetings until she left office. It is disturbing to have Ministers who in this era, can stand up and boldly attest to issues that they are not informed on as it has recently been the case. My belief has always been that people should be sure about issues before presenting them, especially to a high body like parliament.

All the staff at Francistown  College of Education is saying is; documentation be availed to notify them of the intention of the government, and to make sure that their jobs are secured, by way of giving them  priority in what is going to become of FCE as it transforms (as the government claims).

MARTHA TINNY MOLEMA
PUBLICITY & EDUCATION SECRETARY
TRAINERS & ALLIED WORKERS UNION (TAWU)

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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