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Gov’t wasting billions on education - Boko

Publishing Date : 23 March, 2015

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA


Leader of Opposition in Parliament Duma Boko has said that the education crisis facing the country is not simply a matter of education budget but a number of key factors which the government has continued to overlook.


Presenting a special statement on the 2014 Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examination result this week, Boko said it is disturbing that the country has been experiencing a decline in BGCSE results yet there were no serious measures taken to address the situation. “Pass rates below 50% are unacceptable in a country in which more than two-thirds of the annual budget goes to education, with the public investing so much in education surely better returns on this investment are expected,” he said.


Boko argued that throwing money at the problems and taking pride in the amount that government has spent in education does not help to solve the crisis until all the challenges are aggressively addressed. The Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) was allocated P10.3 billion this year, a slight increase from last year’s P9.8 billion.  


 Boko said declining performance in the education system has far reaching implications for the country in the sense that the country may not be able to produce human resource robust enough to drive economic development. “Cyclical crisis in our education means we need to confront challenges in our education system aggressively and systematically,” he said.


The leader of opposition also said schools are not empowered to make their own decisions and budget for some of their basic needs, further adding that management at schools was not geared towards driving a vision that is shared at the lowest by the teachers. “School management does not utilize or deploy teachers effectively and the top down transfer and redeployment approach by the Ministry of Education frustrates efforts to build effective teams in the schools, school management is highly centralised,” Boko argued.


Boko, who is Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington North observed that unless government makes up with unions representing teachers, the show of poor results would continue. “The never ending tug-of-war and conflict between teachers and Government must give way to a harmonious relationship forged on mutual respect,” he noted.


Boko stated that although problems emanating from working conditions, working hours, housing and other non-monetary incentives rarely afford perfect solutions, Government can offer the requisite soundness and seriousness to instil or restore confidence among teachers. “Teachers need to enjoy their profession and derive satisfaction in order to offer their very best,” he said.


The leader of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) noted that International educational benchmarking by organizations such as UNESCO, shows that Botswana is particularly poor at primary school level, the preparation ground for secondary schooling. “We will not be able to fix the poor result at secondary school level until we significantly enhance facilities, teaching quality and school management at the primary school levels,” he argued.


Boko called for change in approach towards school teaching and noted that laboratories, computers and other related facilities are underutilised. Boko’s observation is that the use of laboratories and libraries is regarded more to be a ritual for passing examinations than as an enriching environments for engaging the mind, and developing skills. “We need to change mindsets in schools and cultivate them as centres where students and teachers alike can engage their intellect, nurture their understanding of various disciplines and develop skills,” he contended.  


Boko challenged Government’s teaching approach and stated that students are largely measured and assessed on narrow definitions of content or knowledge and not on skill development or on creativity. He said Government needs to accommodate the input of teachers and industry in the curriculum and also further develop an integrated frame work on how to implement such a curriculum effectively toward the desired outcomes with all stakeholders and their wholesome roles.


Boko, a former University of Botswana academic, said Botswana needs to learn to appoint best leaders at all levels, including Ministerial levels, to ensure that a culture of meritocracy is carried through the education system. “The destiny of our people is tied and riveted to the seriousness with which we adopt, as our own, the idea of excellence,” he stated.

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