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MoBE, BEC education weakest link

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The basic education in Botswana is continuing on a downhill slope and snowballing evidenced by the recently released Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) 2021 results. This comes a week after the release of the Junior Certificate Examination (JCE) results which were equally disappointing.

According to the Botswana Examinations Council (BEC), a total of 37 629 candidates wrote the 2021 examination, comprised of 15 544 (41.31%) male candidates and 22 085 (58.69%) female candidates. Overall performance for government school, private school and individual private candidates is at a pass level of 61.27% showing an insignificant improvement of 0.72 % at Grade G or better compared to 2020. A slight decline of 0.68% has been noted at Grade E or better and a minor increase of 0.08% at Grade C or better.

Analysis of the results at syllabus level shows that three syllabuses namely Chemistry, Physical Education and Music recorded a 100% pass rate. Business Studies continues to record the lowest pass rate at 83.73%, implying that about 16% of candidates in the syllabus are assigned a U.

The results show that females outperformed their male counterparts at overall level Grade G or better. However, males outperformed their female counterparts at top grades being Grade A or better.

Remarks by the Minister of Basic Education Fidelis Molao highlighted that; “the BGCSE is currently the pinnacle of our Basic Education continuum.” Adding; “the BGCSE results are not only reflective of learning achievement that happened in the two years of the Senior School programme, but they indicate a culmination of learning that happened over a period of twelve-years. For Botswana to attain her ideals of attaining a knowledge based economy that is laden with the 4th Industrial Revolution skills, the first twelve years of education should provide a fertile ground for that.”

However there seems to be a weak link in the twelve years of education.

BEC continues to point a finger at the Covid 19 pandemic. As stated by the BEC, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Moreetsi Thobega. He said that “the 2021 examinations, like those of 2020, were conducted under the COVID-19 environment.  The schools had to close from 16 July to 31 August 2021 due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. This then led to timetable changes to address the loss of teaching time.  Despite the challenges with COVID-19, the conduct of examinations went relatively well, with the exception of a few incidents recorded.”

In the same vein, some incident to note is that on 23 October 2021, eight candidates missed their Science Double Award Paper 3 components due to the public transport strike in the Gaborone area.  These candidates were granted special consideration.

In an interview with this publication, the Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) Public Relations Officer, Oreeditse Nyatso highlighted that; “Covid cannot, and will never be a main factor attributed to the dwindling performance of learners. There are many factors which contributes to the end results.

Infrastructure in schools has deteriorated over years; many school’s science labs are used as base rooms and apparatus are malfunctional. The results have been declining for the past 3 to 5 years, and many factors contributed to this decline. Educators’ welfare and conditions of service are also main contributors.

In service trainings have been stopped and with the increase in complexity and dynamic in curriculum delivery and assessment. Leadership in the 21st century is key in delivering output, and school leadership or management is not an exception. School managers need to be capacitated to lead teachers and learners.”

He went on that; “BOSETU believes that the key and vehicle to knowledge-based economy is quality education. To realize quality education; policies, human resource, facilities and technological infrastructure must be commensurate with the set strategy and targets. Our believe is that the strategy towards a knowledge-based economy is fine, but the inputs from the drivers (government) are far from realizing the strategy.

It is a far-fetched dream. It will, just like Vision 2016 be a chorus Batswana will be expected to sing and memorize. Failure by MoBE to implement the ETSSP is one indication that diversification and innovation expected from Batswana learners; who are expected to use their God-given talents and abilities to move Botswana forward.”

On the matter of students with special with special needs often being sidelined such as not benefiting from centers for access arrangements and special consideration during exams. BOSETU stance is that; they have in the past, advocated for a post in schools that will specifically deal with learners with all disabilities.

They believe the Guidance and Counselling office is no longer coping with the challenges facing learners. “Segregating learners into special schools is no longer viable as that on its own is discriminatory and makes learners feel they are ‘not normal’.”

BOSETU understands the pressure its members go through throughout the year. “Though traumatic to our members, they never relent in encouraging learners to give out their best. Before examinations, schools organize workshops and seminars to motivate the learners.

During examinations, our members are always at the forefront in helping learners cope with anxiety and exam fevers. This is a service BOSETU members are nit renumerated for, but they do it out of patriotism and the care for the needs and welfare of learners. Said Nyatso.

Despite the lack of performance in basic education, the Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE) continues to receive a fat cheque from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. In her maiden budget speech, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Peggy Serame disclosed that “the Ministry of Basic Education has been allocated the second largest share of the proposed Ministerial Recurrent Budget of 18.5 percent, amounting to P9.87 billion.

The proposed allocations are intended to help drive the Ministry’s key mandate of striving to educate students to become self-sufficient, life-long learners and empower them to be competent, productive and responsible caring citizens. The above represents growth of P343.66 million or 3.6 percent over the current year’s approved budget.

The major cost drivers of the proposed budget include teachers’ salaries, which includes provision for new teacher positions to absorb 3 509 temporary teachers on a full-time basis, as well as allowances, operational costs for Botswana Examination Council, food and books for students, service charges and other costs associated with learners such as materials for practical subjects. Maintenance of existing facilities continues to be a priority under the Ministry.”

BEC recognizes candidates with Outstanding Performance as Top Achievers. The criterion for outstanding performance in the BGCSE examination is achievement of at least six A*s in the syllabuses that a candidate may have taken.

The number of candidates who met this criterion in 2021 is seventeen from eleven centers compared to nineteen from twelve centers in 2020, with four candidates from one center this year whilst the rest of the centers had three two or one . The top candidate achieved 9A*, 1A, 1B and 1C from 12 syllabuses whilst the 2020 top candidate achieved 11A*s from a total of 11 syllabuses.

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In his affidavit, Katholo says that by virtue of my appointment as the Director General of the DCEC, he is obliged to defend the administration and operational activities of the DCEC. He added that, “I have however been advised about a provision in the State Proceedings Act which grants the authority of public institution to undertake legal proceedings to the Attorney General.” Katholo contends that the provision is not absolute and the High Court may in the exercise of its original jurisdiction permit such, like in this circumstance authorise such proceedings to be instituted by the DCEC or its Director General.

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Uzair and his wife went to settle in Dubai, the latter’s birthplace. He stayed in touch and was working for a real estate company owned by Mr. Sameer Lakhani. “Our understanding is that Uzair approached Mr. Abdoola to utilize their services for any property-related interests in Dubai. He did some work for Mr.Abdoola and others in the Botswana business community,” narrates a friend of Mr Abdoola.

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