As far back as many of today’s adults will remember, the expression ‘education is the key to life’ was inculcated in learners as a mantra for success.
Whether that education is academic or vocational, institution or home-based, education is critical in the development of well-rounded, literate, ambitious individuals who can meaningfully contribute to their communities and countries.
That expression echoed loud and frequently decades ago when policymakers and advocates confronted reluctant communities and parents with the gospel of education.
Parents and children accustomed to agrarian lifestyles eyed the introduction of formal education with great suspicion viewing it as a brainwashing exercise. Attitudes have changed dramatically over the years and today, education is regarded as a basic and critical right for every Motswana, enshrined in the policy of universal access to education.
Today, so great is the desire for quality education that public institutions are surfeit and the private education sector is thriving, with the support of government sponsorship.
The desire for education is evident at the Botswana College of Agriculture where for the past two weeks, students have been on strike demanding a higher quality learning experience.
The students report that their requests for a better food system, greater hygiene standards and improved marketing of graduates, have fallen on deaf ears for years.
The scenes at the BCA on Monday were a national embarrassment, as students clashed with riot police, with reports of severe injuries, the eventual closure of the college and the deferral of the forthcoming examinations. Initially, the institution’s public response to the troubles was cold, with authorities unwilling to even address the complaints students were raising.
Only after Monday’s violence did management at the college call select media to a hastily arranged press conference and commit to the resolution of some of the grievances.
Such is the laissez faire attitude that has seeped into the public education sector in recent years. Performance levels within institutions have fallen as evident from declining pass rates, as factors within and outside the education sector have depressed learners and educators alike.
These factors include poor conditions of service for teachers, lack of infrastructure, classroom congestion, change of assessment system and the limitation of extracurricular activities, which included revision, as a result of the new Public Service Act. From the learners’ side, ill discipline, truancy and vices such as drunkenness and pregnancies are rife, depressing the output of our education system.
Policymakers, principals, parents and students need to re-dedicate themselves to the future of this country via concerted recommitment to education. Education is still the key to life but at this rate, the country has no future.
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
- John Dewey