Well, the year just ended was a momentous year that will be remembered for more wrongs than good that happened in the country. The invigorating election campaigns by our three political parties with the results that surprised some and left many seriously wounded across the political divide was one of the highlights that merit some comment.
Some disturbing features of the election included some leaders instead of engaging their opponents on issues, chose to be vicious and personal in a manner that left many wondering as to where we were headed to as a nation. Some even talked of war and instability that will happen if opponents were to win the elections.
Immediately after the election results, instead of party leaders and activists burying the hatchet and congratulating the winners, another round of war of words ensued to try to discredit some ‘winners’. The social media, the print media and the freedom squares became the battlegrounds for mud slinging and insults instead of them becoming plough fields for planting developmental ideas to build the country going forward.
As we start the year we must say no to insults and unnecessary self praise that some have found to be useful tools for silencing those who do not agree with them. Remember self praise has no commendation. Some would say it is only acceptable when used by entertainers, comedians or clowns. Generally those who use derogatory language do so to hide their ignorance and or to hide from some self inflicted pain mostly emanating from malicious or untruthful statements made in public by perpetrators and their cronies.
No one has the monopoly of knowledge. We must be willing to live and learn from one another regardless of our educational background or political inclinations. I urge all our politicians to engage positively to address pertinent national issues that continue to bedevil our republic, thus limiting our ability to attain the level of development we deserve.
We have lots of issues to address, ranging from education, employment creation, agriculture and food security, land availability, industrialisation, health care, tourism, sports, entertainment, the performing arts, including our electoral system that has managed to allow the minority to be the majority in the last general elections. This system yearns for a review by our parliament, don’t you think? With this long list we should all be searching frantically for solutions rather than engaged in unproductive negative talk in public forums.
My intention this year is to continue to share, probe and ‘nudge’ with a view to stimulate debate and perhaps contribute my ‘pennies worth’ in shaping the way forward towards 2019 and beyond. We must accept that this country needs significant change to become a modern country that can compete with the very best in the world. There is no reason why we cannot strive to be the best.
There is no reason why we cannot be globally competitive. We must start by accepting that we need to change our attitudes; that we need to start cleansing our governance practices; that we must continue to expose and isolate corruption in all its manifestations and that we must promote best practices in all spheres of our personal and public lives.
Those who continue to benefit from corrupt practices and continue to steal from public coffers by whatever means must know that the people are watching; one day they will be asked to account and may face relentless raging wrath of undefined magnitude from the people.
Let me go into my topic of today. I want to begin the year by talking about education, appropriate education I must emphasise. I believe appropriate education is the cornerstone that will anchor any significant development in any country. It is through appropriate education that we can become the best that we can be. I want to assert that everything we do as a nation is as good as the education we have given to our people. As the global village mantra becomes even more virulent, countries with substandard educational practices and poor governance practices will be found wanting. They will be rejected or left behind; even well meaning citizens will leave their country for better pastures elsewhere.
What is education? There is no single or simple definition. What is true though is that education is not defined only in terms of the number of years of schooling and the fluency in English as many people in this country seem to believe but more importantly it is defined in terms of the practical and usable skills and practices that are acquired during the schooling years.
This is what I would term appropriate education. Appropriate education must equip the recipient to be industry ready on completion of the chosen line of education, whether in teaching, whether in manufacturing, whether in mining, whether in agriculture, whether in tourism, whether in journalism, whether in whatever field! Imagine a medical Doctor who completes his medical studies without any practical skills! I do not even want to imagine what kind of doctor this will be.
I am sure none of us would like to be seen by such a doctor for medical care. I believe that’s why doctors spend seven years or so training before they can practice. It is a legal and professional requirement. In the military, would you expect our military men to get some classroom theoretical education and then send them to the battle field to defend our country? Would you? Why do we then expect people in other professions to be given classroom schooling and then expect them to practice as engineers, lecturers, artisans, accountants, human resources practitioners, managers etc? Why?
Our education since independence has been described by industry, general public and the opposition parties as both inadequate and inappropriate to meet our developmental and business needs. Although our government has also acknowledged this anomaly, addressing this inadequacy seems to be a serious challenge. Some say, it is due to lack of political will. This maybe somewhat true, but perhaps it is mainly due to lack of deep appreciation of the root causes of this inadequacy.
With all the best political will in the world, can meaningfully transformation of our education system be effected without a deep appreciation of what is wrong and what is causing that which is wrong? Therefore, there is perhaps a need to unpack the pertinent educational issues so that we can begin to understand what makes our education what it is.
Someone long ago defined education ‘as a process by which a person begins to learn how to learn’. This sounds like the truth to me. Without understanding the need to learn, one can never learn. Once this understanding is instilled in the individual then learning will be easier and continuous. Education is a never ending process. It does not end when one receives a certificate; the certificate is just the beginning that opens the door for real life learning to start.
Education is officially defined as schooling, teaching, learning, tutoring, instruction, edification and culture. Real education must have all these seven elements to produce a well rounded person who is ready to conquer the world on acquiring this education.
Culture is very important; it is the way of life, the way we do things here, the way we behave here, the way we talk to each other here, the way we work here; basically our work ethics. Without the right culture the work relations and the business suffer.
This is a fact that we do not seem to appreciate as a nation. Instruction; being instructed and taking instruction are things we often take for granted but this has to be taught during the schooling years, can you succeed in any industry if you are unable to take instructions? Tutoring implies an element of training to horn on specific skills needed; all jobs require specific skills to be learned.
Learning implies owning the knowledge you have acquired. Once you are well taught the knowledge becomes yours forever. Edification is all these things bundled together. In our current education system, we emphasise the number of years of schooling and the number of certificates acquired. The result is what we see. Quality and relevance are more important features of any education.
If the education we provide defines the kind of country we desire, then we must define the education that will move us towards being the best destination as pronounced by our national motto or tagline ‘Botswana my pride, your destination’. If we want to build a world class educational system we need to first define what a world class educational system is and what it will do for us.
What are the ingredients of a world class education system? The educator from preschool to tertiary must be well educated, well resourced, well supported, well paid and well motivated. Without these elements forget about world class education. It is the educators that we must entrust to provide this world class education.
An educator at university, at technical/professional school, at a secondary school, at a primary school, at a preschool must be well educated from both a theoretical and practical point of view. They must possess a certificate that shows that they have acquired enough appropriate theoretical knowledge and a certificate of competency that shows that the individual has acquired enough practical skills to be able to impart knowledge to the recipients.
Despite, the fact that we are talking of educators, we must acknowledge that the education of these people is different and must be appropriate to the area of education they provide. For example, a pre school teacher education cannot be the same as that of a university lecturer.
Both the theory and practice are very different. What is mostly missing in our education is the practical side as alluded to earlier. Practical learning most invariably come from existing institutions, not only nationally but internationally if we want to be global competitive.
University lectures train their student for the world of work and they must have practical knowledge about the world of work. They must have worked in industry to have the practical skills to impart to their students. The students must also be exposed to industry as part of their studies. This is crucial for an effective and complete education.
However, a well educated educator/teacher is not enough; the teacher must be well resourced with a decent classroom, relevant teaching aids and books; a library and computer room for research and continuous learning. Teaching under a tree will not produce the results we desire. The students must also be willing and hungry to learn.
They must be consequences that are clearly defined for both the teacher and the student if learning is not happening as required. The student must also be given appropriate roles to play in helping to run the school. The parent must play a significant role in the school to support the teacher, to support the school and to support the child. The school becomes a second home for the child and the teacher becomes the second parent to the child.
In addition, they must be a supportive environment for the teacher and the school. The school management must be visible and approachable to the teacher. They must ensure that all her/his teaching and social requirements are recognised and supported. The school buildings and facilities must be regularly maintained.
The maintenance resources need to be provided and managed by the school to ensure that a clean and conducive learning environment is availed always. Management of schools must be decentralised with the central governing body providing the necessary oversight to ensure compliance with general standards.
The schools must be given autonomy to be innovative and to be creative. More importantly they should be encouraged and a given budgetary provision to compete with other schools nationally, regionally and internationally.
The above will not be enough. A teacher must be well paid with a salary package that is commensurate with our expectation of a globally competitive teacher. There is no reason why our teachers should be paid less than their counterparts in industry or across the border. We must benchmark and find the right package that will keep our teachers motivated to provide the best education for our children. We need to have ‘win – win’ relationships for success in this area.
Having described the educator we need, we need to define the human resources we need to produce? We want teachers, we want technicians, we want artisans, we want accountants, we want business specialists, we want builders, we want road engineers, we want computer specialists, we want water and electricity engineers, we want all the human resources that support our economy; we want people to support our hospitality industries; we want a lot of different specialisations.
Those entrusted with the management of our education must systematically and holistically look at all our human resources needs including sporting, music, and the performing arts and design a well researched and matching educational system.
These are not new concepts. The first world and the developing world have already developed and defined appropriate educational systems. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We need to be smart like the Chinese, the Singaporeans, the Brazilians, and the Japanese etc. We need to adopt and adapt to survive. We should not waste our resources doings things that have already been done by others.
In closing let me give an example of a failure that I believe was a result of our poor educational system. BEDIA was formed with good intentions of bringing direct foreign investment in our country. If we are honest with ourselves we will acknowledge that we have invested millions of our hard earned money into bottomless pits in our effort to attract this allusive direct foreign investment through BEDIA now BITC. There are a number of reasons why we have not attracted the investment we wished for.
The reasons include among others poor infrastructure, poor governance processes, poor services, inadequately trained human resources. Chief amongst these will be inadequately trained human resources as this will not only impact directly on the business itself, but it will also impact on the other inadequacies that we continue to battle with.
Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Company was established in Botswana in 1992 and folded around 2001. Why? I really do not know but I have a good idea. The official reason you normally get for such failures is never the real reason. Hyundai is a car manufacturing company from South Korea with manufacturing bases outside of South Korea including Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, India, Russia, Turkey and the U.S. amongst others.
There is a US$1.7 billion assembly and manufacturing plant in Alabama in the USA which employs over 3000 people who are responsible for bringing to life all the Hyundai modern car designs to the American market and beyond.
This is a significant investment in one factory. I do not know how much Hyundai had invested in Botswana. However, the reason they left would have been an unattractive business environment punctuated by poor infrastructure, poor services, unfriendly regulations, unkind processes and so forth. We lost a golden opportunity to be an exporter of the Hyundai dream cars. Whether we like it or not, the chief reason for failure would have been poorly trained human resources. This would never have been given as an official reason; you will only hear about it in the corridors and within closed doors.
A car manufacturing factory is a highly specialised industry that requires diverse skills. You will need automobile engineers in the electrical and electronic field, mechanical engineers specialising on car manufacturing, specialised welders and painters, computer specialists, designers, planners, accountants, marketing specialists, human resources practitioners etc.
These specialists must understand the uniqueness and intricacies of the motor industry. Have we trained these people and are they available for us to start or support an automobile industry? No. Are you surprised then that the Hyundai car assembly factory failed?
If a foreign company has to rely on foreign experts in large numbers to start a business, they will be significant cost implications in bringing these experts, social implications, accommodation constraints, inadequate schooling for foreign children, industrial relations issues etc. These companies might be attracted by what they read and hear from the likes of BEDIA, but when they start operating here the reality on the ground is different and paining and many of them if not all will leave. Examples abound.
Therefore my take is that if you want a lasting direct foreign investment in car manufacturing industry you must first invest in appropriate education and training. Establish a car manufacturing academy to train your people in all areas of car design, manufacturing and maintenance. Some of these people will establish their own car manufacturing companies.
Some will find work in other companies, even abroad. When large companies want to invest in Botswana they will find ready made people in the country for their business. The foreign investor will only need to bring their core staff thus significantly increasing chances of success.
This example will apply to any areas you need foreign direct investment in the country. Let us therefore work towards adopting an appropriate educational system that will produce well rounded individuals who will in turn promote best practices, unlock many doors for our prosperity and attract much needed international investment and expertise.
I hope these thoughts and insights are helpful. Let us look forward to a more successful and more positive engagement as the year progresses.
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.
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
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