Making schools count

Why fix it if not broken? In the 1980’s epoch, a novel system of school governance gained currency in public schools - the Board of Governors (BoGs) system.

It became a characteristic and prominent feature of junior secondary schools. With the advent of junior secondary schools and their subsequent mushrooming across the length and breadth of Botswana, a going it alone policy was going to be cumbersome and overwhelming. Government, in its wisdom elected to co-govern schools with the community. This approach was a departure from the norm, where central ministry exercised direct control over the affairs of schools. Direct control insulated schools from the community it was created to serve. The BoGs brought a new and likable tune. There was transfer and devolution of power to the grassroots. A sense of collective ownership of schools embedded in the system developed some spirit of love and pride towards schools.

Among other powers, BoGs enjoyed financial autonomy enabling timely and speedy procurement of adequate critical teaching and learning inputs. Shortage of essential teaching materials then was an alien phenomenon. While the system worked and served the schools well, it was also riddled with some imperfections. Accountability became an issue tempting government to abolish BoGs in favour of a more centralised and watertight system. But with hindsight benefit, the abolition of BoGs proved to be a retrogressive step as experience has shown that the advantages of the old system far outweighed its disadvantages. More controls and rules within the system should have been introduced to eliminate loopholes.

It is against this backdrop that Professor Jaap Kuiper’s study on declining academic standards advocates a return to the BoGs system. When asked on the BoGs, school managers expressed nostalgic feelings.

“Schools were asked whether a Board of Governors to oversee finances and thus perhaps allow some more financial freedom might be an option. All schools readily agreed that this would be a good idea”. Clearly, the central ministry’s tight controls over school budgets seem to create more problems than solutions. In particular, Kuiper raises questions on the role of finance on attainment of improved and desirable learning outcomes. The question is how far is management of finance supporting teaching and learning? As it stands now, Kuiper contends that “finance does not at all play an effective role in enhancing the quality of the Learning Environment.”

“The finance allocations to schools are very ineffective and inefficient, and tend to be viewed by school management as often quite irrelevant. Schools are allocated funds on what appears to be a one-size-fits-all principle. Schools get funds then find the funds have been withdrawn without explanation”.

By and large, the Kuiper study sees value addition in giving schools more financial freedom. This would create a school management that feels empowered and able to work on the quality of the Learning Environment the school creates. Therefore the case has been made. A return to BOGs requires urgent consideration.

Editor's Comment
More resources needed to fight crime

The Fight Crime Gaborone Facebook page is always filled with sad complaints of hard working Batswana who were robbed at knife point at some traffic lights or at their home gates when trying to get inside.These thugs have no mercy; they do not just threaten victims, they are always ready to use knives, and sadly, they damage car windows. While this happens at different traffic lights, there are those where such incidents happen more frequently...

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