Connect with us
Advertisement

Building Botswana through right Education


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.

Email: bernard.busani@ gmail.com Cell: 71751440

Continue Reading

Opinions

The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosis actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as international waters.

Pelosis visit to Chinas Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqus. In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to Chinas position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The Peoples Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijings position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwans administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Bidens words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region. The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as Taiwan independence. The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for Chinas Peoples Liberation Army to safeguard Chinas national sovereignty, security and development interests. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard Chinas overseas investments, projects and personnel. It then follows that President Xis administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector Chinas sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part. Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The Peoples Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces. This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijings military exercises will certainly shake Taiwans confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwans central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As Chinas military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit Chinas Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to Taiwan independence separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the Peoples Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

Continue Reading

Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswanas democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogaes assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in theBulela Ditswedispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswewas an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties ruling and opposition have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

Continue Reading

Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumers piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswanas, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they dont imagine that their one download will do anything to the production houses pocket or make a dent in the actors net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musicians music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth.

As Botswanas creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africas respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswanas economy are being diverted.

Why cant our local creative industry grow? Why dont we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana? are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswanas local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the countrys economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, its imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economys growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artists music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

Continue Reading