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Education without professional development: ineffective if not useless

Bernard Busani

 

I listened to his honour, the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi intently when he was officiating at the recent diamond conference in Gaborone. What caught my attention were his remarks on ‘remarkable’ achievement on employment creation since diamond cutting and polishing started in earnest few years back.

He said employment ‘remarkably increased from 500 to 3700 people since 2008’? By the way he deliberately omitted to say that well over a 1000 of these very people have since lost their jobs due to the numerous factory closures and downsizing that took place during this period. We have to be honest as leadership and state the facts as there are so that we can begin a process of finding suitable solutions. 

We cannot be seen to be celebrating failure Sir. Our diamond beneficiation should by now have created thousands more jobs and business opportunities. What further caught my attention and motivated this submission was his honour’s onslaught on low productivity and shortage of requisite skills that is thwarting or frustrating the growth of the diamond beneficiation industry in Botswana.

He did not even attempt to offer any suggestion to improve the productivity levels he bemoaned. He did not even bother to state what his government will do to help reduce this daunting shortage of skills that he loathed. He did not offer any suggestion to help this very important but ailing diamond beneficiation industry.

The perennial hollow hullabaloo parroted at such gatherings about the lack of requisite skills and low levels of productivity will not offer any solutions until we realise, that skills and professional development must and should be part and parcel of our education and human development plan; that professional and skills development should be and must be a deliberate plan driven and championed by government and industry to adequately equip our people for development of their country.  

Our government together with industry must understand that we cannot and must not continue to rely on other countries who have taken the trouble to adequately train their own people for their own industries.

We should not think that these people will always be available, for all I know we might even be getting the ‘bad apples’ that will not help us in anyway, but may sink us deeper into a swamp of dependency. Our leaders must be very lazy thinkers if they think that we can continue to rely on others for adequacy of skills and productivity levels. Instead of accepting their laziness, our leaders prefer to blame their innocent people for being the lazy ones, lacking skills and being very unproductive.  

I refuse to accept this false notion. Our people I maintain are the same as any other in the world.  We must understand ad accept that the rot starts from the head, not the tail.

Education without ongoing skills and professional development is almost useless. Getting a degree, a second, a third degree or even a master’s or a doctorate degree in any field as has been the norm will not make one effective and suited for the job market unless and until those degrees are accompanied by on going certificated professional and skills development.

If we were a smart people we should have known by now that this expensive education we continue to provide without getting the intended return on investment is wasteful. We continue to annually pump billions of Pulas into an education system that yields unproductive and unskilled people.

What has become of our leaders? All government parastatals are not achieving their mandates, despite the fact that they are manned by degreed personnel; many at leadership positions have master’s and doctorate degrees and yet we are still to see improved productivity levels in these parastatals. 

So many of our companies, private companies are not meeting the mark in terms of international best practices despite the educated workforce in these entities, why? The answer lies in failure by government and industry to recognise the need for on going professional and skills development at all levels; thinking that somehow these skills must just happen once someone has been given ‘basic’ degreed education.

The professional and skills development will not come cheap; it will not happen without a deliberate effort by government and the business community; it will not happen until it is made a major part of our employment strategy. The revised ministry which includes labour and skills development has its work cut out for it.  

Talking and complaining about lack of requisite skills will not address the shortage of such skills. The current HRDC as mandated will not address the skills shortages. We will continue to produce graduates who are not job ready, who are shunned by industry, unless government takes the lead and insists on getting these graduates requisite professional and skills development through an international recognised, formalized process developed, supported and accredited by industry. The new ministry of labour and skills development must take notes and get going on this; Let us peep briefly into some key areas to elucidate;

Engineers (mechanical, electrical, civil and electronics)

Almost all, if not all engineers in this country do not have any recognised, certificated, professional development that makes our engineers certified engineers in the many varied engineering disciplines scattered all over our industries. The registration of engineers by the Botswana Institute of Engineers does not make our engineers certified. There is need for an accreditation process for all our engineers.

Take any engineering discipline and tell me what rigorous certificated professional development takes place after they graduate? Can our engineers compete with the best engineers internationally in their field?  I doubt, but not because our engineers are not hard working or not gifted enough but because after graduation there is nothing available for them to be accredited.

It is a question of giving the right internationally recognised exposure and requisite training after graduation.  Most of our engineers after graduation are pushed to become managers, managing people and not doing any real hardcore engineering work worthy of being recognised as such. 

They do not practice engineering which must include conceptualisation, designing and building engineering systems and architecture in their chosen field.  Are you aware of any engineering equipment or system conceptualised, designed and built by our local engineers?  Our education system is deliberately designed to fail our people.

It is a ‘rigged system’ I must add, if we look hard we will find the source of this rigging.  Just how many roads are designed by our local engineers, how many motors, computers, cars and electrical components are conceptualised, designed and built by our local engineers? Many questions!!

Mining, mineral processing and geological engineers

These are the engineers required to conceptualise, design, build and run our mines. Our mines are varied geologically and mineralogically, requiring different mining methods; requiring varying and unique processing technologies. Coal, diamonds, copper, gold, uranium and many others indeed require different and unique mining and processing technologies.

Our graduates basically go through the same basic training that covers all possible mining and processing methods and technologies. After graduation what certification do these engineers acquire to become certified mining engineers or mineral processing engineers or geologists?

What expert and professional grounding do they get to equip them to work in any mine anywhere in the world? What skills do our government engineers have to oversee the safe and sound operations of our mines and mining related entities? The shortage of requisite skills is a man-made tragedy that will be solved by deep understanding of what is required by the mining industry not only in our country but beyond.

Like I said earlier it is not cheap to acquire these skills but it is what is needed to develop requisite skills for all our mining related industries. I am afraid HRDC will not develop these skills for us.

IT and computer studies

Last week there was an article in the weekend post which stated categorically that IT degrees are no longer enough for acceptance into industry without other practical skills. A degree is just an entry point which without complementary certificated training will become increasingly irrelevant, if it is not already irrelevant.

This I am afraid applies to all disciplines especially engineering disciplines where issues of productivity, innovation, growth and safety of personnel and equipment are firmly intertwined.  We can no longer rely on degrees, no matter how many such degrees one acquires. We need practical and accredited training that will provide requisite skills in our country for us to address the perennial, monotonous and boring skills and productivity songs.

Business related degrees

It appears to me that people who do business related degrees have numerous other certificated courses and practices that help them to hone their business skills. Most of them strive to acquire professional qualifications after graduation.

The internationally recognised training programs are available in the country and abroad. This is what ought to be adopted by other disciplines for their professions to be meaningful and internationally recognised.

Human development and other degrees

I am not away of any professional accredited courses done to support these degrees in our country. The world of work is increasingly becoming complex and all our people need to be capacitated for this complex and cruel world of work.

Without deeper professional grounding by the support services, there is always a danger of conflict and resultant inertia that makes decision making onerous and un-business- like, leading to unhealthy compromises which consequently could lead to wrong decisions and compromised productivity levels and business growth.

Conclusion

We must accept that nothing happens without requisite leadership that fully understands the challenges of development. We will never fully develop this country without the full participation of all our people.

Skills development which goes hand in hand with professional development will go a long way in addressing the growing legacy of poor work ethics which includes such social ills as corruption, poor productivity and so called laziness at work. We can all make a difference, if given a real chance.

 

E-mail: bernard.busani@gmail.com       Tel: 71751440

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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