Let me acknowledge the many writings and opinions on the issue of human resource in public schools in Botswana. Yes our public schools have experienced a downward trend in student academic achievement levels in the recent past years.
This scenario is not so good but very much redeemable. What turnaround strategy should be applied to get us back to the glory days? Some opinions point to schoolheads and other members of school management including head of houses (HoH) as game changers. I whole heartedly appreciate the many challenges affecting our learning institutions. They include but not limited to such areas as; teacher-learner ratios, low staff morale, dilapidating infrastructure and overloaded curriculum that seems to emphasise more of the ‘recall’ rather than imparting skills and learning how to think.
Whilst we rightfully point out the physical hiccups to prowess academic achievement, this letter seeks to make introspection on the human resource. No matter the amount of physical resources that can be availed, I am of the view that outsmarting ourselves productively in quest for better academic achievement is a personal choice. A choice that is internally driven. Choices that will shape one’s attitude and make us go an extra mile in quest for creativity and innovation. It is that choice that significantly separates excellence from mediocrity.
Lest I fall prey to some bashing from my colleagues, I must hasten in pointing out that there still exists more committed human resource in the education department who are outdoing themselves to better the performance of the Ministry. It is actually my view that no Government department has more hardworking personnel than the Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE).
Truth be said though, many atimes some of the human resource serve the Ministry with questionable actions. The culture of late coming to work, shoddy lesson planning, blaming attitude, uninspiring leadership and insufficient collaboration are just some of the actions that we portray.
We are found wanting in these and many other areas as the MoBE human resource. A friend teacher once told me that at some point, he came very late for a lesson. Unfortunately a HoH together with his senior teacher where passing near the class he was due to attend. Developing goose bumps upon seeing his supervisors, my friend was surprised when the HoH could only say that ‘tlhe mona o tla mpolaisa mogokgo’, loosely translated as ‘you will soon have me rebuked by the headmaster’. I am further informed that his senior teacher could only blame the staff development office as he said
Apart from him getting a rebuke from the headmaster, the HoH sees nothing wrong with the teacher’s behaviour. The senior teacher is suffering from very serious ‘blaming attitude’ condition. Is it safe to say we are having some managerial gaps in our schools? Are we still having those inspirational leaders who can propel others to working hard for results? Maybe we need training on this matter, lest we have teachers being promoted to managerial positions without managerial skills.
I want to summarise this opinion by looking at the office of staff development in institutions of learning. Organisational productivity should be the core mandate of this office. Research (qualitative or quantitative) should form the basis upon which interventions are crafted for various imaging issues at school level. Staff development officer in a school should play that role of a training and development officer in any other organisation. This officer should help account for the general performance of a school together with the school headmaster. In spite of us knowing that one cannot successfully come up with relevant interventions without doing some situational analysis of the training needs by various units and departments, we still subject these officers to instructional delivery. This is one officer who is abused or underutilised depending on the school and the calibre of that substantive officer.
I am of the view that this office be elevated to ‘School Performance Improvement Coordinator’ (SPIC). In order to ensure that there is balanced productivity on the organisational scorecard, SPIC should be in a position to harmonise working relationships, undertake research exercises on pedagogical methodologies, ensure adherence to set standards, improve the image of the school within and outside school, spearhead community outreach and account for the general school performance. SPIC is to a school headmaster what a Permanent Secretary is to the Minister. Let us do our part of the bargain and then rightfully use all the five fingers to point at our other partners and stakeholders.
*Ignatious Njobvu is a Performance Improvement Coordinator at Maun Senior Secondary School & OBE Task Team Four Core Member.