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Minister Dow Clueless Over Poor JC Results

Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD)

BCP Deputy Leader


The Junior Certificate (JC) Final Examinations Results are out. The Botswana Sector Teachers Union (BOSETU) correctly describes the results as deplorable based on the fact that nationally 67.46% obtained grade D or worse. The 2015 JC final examinations results were equally disastrous with a failure rate of 66.69%. The previous years have not been impressive either.

 

According to the Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) there is no need for the nation to be worried since Botswana has recorded poor results for some years now. Another interesting feature of the results is that the percentage of students who failed the examinations is disproportionately higher in the rural areas compared to the urban and village towns.


After another shocking JC Examinations Results were announced, the whole nation waited for Unity Dow the Minister of Basic Education to provide answers as to why the majority of students failed to pass the Final Examinations. When she finally addressed the nation it was clear that the Minister had no clue on the reasons why the country records the worst examinations results that are comparable to countries emerging from internal violent conflicts or civil wars. 

 

An upper middle income country such as Botswana does not deserve this level of failure of students in final examinations. With all the resources at her disposal the Minister resorted to speculations and guess work in trying to explain the cause of deplorable final examinations results. She was singing the old song of poor stakeholder support resulting in truancy in schools as well as inadequate resources. It is disingenuous for the Minister to attribute the failure rate to resource constraints.  


In 2015 Dow was the Minister of Education and Skills Development (MoESD). What came out clear is that following the poor examinations results of 2015 the Minister did not take appropriate interventions to address the problem. For her it was business as usual. Part of the reason for inaction by the Minister and other Ministers of Education before her towards poor performance of public schools is because they take their children to private schools. Therefore they are not directly affected. Some of them even go to the extent of sending their children to well acclaimed schools outside the country.  They have long given up on public schools.


After presiding over successive poor examinations results it is only now that the Minister is talking about the need to conduct a tracer study. Such a study might determine who passes or fails but may fail to explain why students pass or fail. Why conduct a tracer study when factors that affect results are well documented.

 

These include universal access to early childhood education (not school orientation sessions), use of mother tongue as medium of instruction, class size, regular and timely book supply, regular provision of school meals, adequately equipped laboratories and improved conditions of service for teachers. Poor results are also attributable to reduced contact time as a result of the new public service act. The underlying cause of these problems is corruption, wasteful expenditure and misguided priorities.


The fact that there are disparities between urban and rural schools is an indication that examinations results are negatively affected by inequitable resource allocations. The Minister should be focusing on addressing these gaps instead of wasting resources on a tracer study which may turn out to be a mere academic exercise. It is a tactic meant to deal with political backlash rather than intended to seriously address the problem at hand.


Schools in the high performing category are an exception. In research terminology they are outliers. Such schools are usually inundated with request from parents who wish to transfer children who are excellent performers from poor performing schools. This gives them an advantage to enrol the best performing students. It will be unrealistic to think that the performance of such schools can be replicated in other situations.  


An issue that requires serious interrogation is the assessment methods implemented by the BEC. Grades obtained from a normal population of students must follow a normal distribution pattern. In other words, there should be a few children who are excelling and a similar number of students who are not. The majority of students should converge around an average passing grade. In our view an assessment system that fails to produce grades that follow a normal distribution trend is invalid and must be discarded forthwith.


Apart from her obsession with a tracer study the Minister did not tell the nation what will happen to 28,291 out of 41 938 students who failed the Junior Certificate Examinations. The consequences of denying Batswana children quality education will be felt in many years to come. Botswana could find herself faced with an increased ageing population while the economy experiences a shrinking population in gainful employment capable of paying tax to sustain a high social welfare bill.


In Botswana public pre-primary, primary and secondary schools attract children of parents from a low income working class background, Ipelegeng beneficiaries as well as struggling peasant farmers. Consequently Botswana is characterised by an education system that discriminates students based on social class.


Children graduating from public schools are more likely to be engaged in Ipelegeng, Green Scorpions, Tirelo Sechaba, Cluster Volunteers, and Special Constables while those from private schools become accountants, lawyers, financial consultants, bankers etc. Hence a staggering income inequality that is comparable to countries like Brazil. Children from public schools are more likely to be poor during adult life. Poor education is the root cause of unemployment, underemployment, and poverty.  It is a system that is a product of the ideology of the ruling party.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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