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Our Education At 50

Last week Gaborone hosted an enormous event, the 50 days countdown to 50 years of independence, an event that was glamorous indeed.

The celebrations gathered together all the sectors of the economy that joined in their colours, proudly showing off their presence.

Botswana is at the same time troubled by the common problem that is dogging the whole world, unemployment. Commentators have singled out training or education as key to ensuring that this menace of unemployment is contained.

Interestingly Botswana has started in earnest in this direction, as shown by recent events at the University of Botswana (UB) where the national university nearly missed out on government sponsorships for this year’s intake.

According reports, the UB had failed to align its programmes with the new requirements of the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) and the Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA).

In fact it is the latter that focus should be on, since BQA has been mandated to design the required training needs for institutions like the UB which run the risk of zero funding should they fail to conform to the BQA’s requirements of training needs of the country.

When the media recently ran reports from the various BQA consultative workshops, one might have thought these sweeping changes to our education environment are still far away, not knowing that come July and August some institutions like UB that had failed to adapt to the changing needs of our training and qualifications could actually sink.

The BQA, according to literature, can be traced to the year 2000 when the BOTA started operating. BOTA had come to be established because key to the development of the country is human resource development; education, training and skills development amongst others.

Botswana has over the years reviewed its education and training system, approved strategies, policies, and guidelines for continual improvement.

The national policy on education of 1993 outlined the need for an educated and knowledge-based work force and provides a route map in terms of access to vocational education, lifelong training opportunities and linkages with business and industry. The Revised National Policy on Education (RNPE 1994) reiterates the National Policy on Education by emphasising the need to equip learners with skills to enable them to enter into employment and self-employment.

The Vocational Training Act, 1998, established the Botswana Training Authority(BOTA) to coordinate and regulate the vocational training system. This Act established the quality assurance system for the vocational training sub-system. The Tertiary Education Policy (2008), established the Tertiary Education Council (TEC). At the time of rationalisation, TEC had registered 44 higher education training providers.

The NHRD Strategy (2009), recommended the establishment of BQA and HRDC, The BQA has a much more expanded mandate since it regulates all the three sub-systems of education and training; General Education, Technical and Vocational Education and Training and Higher Education.

The establishment of the BQA is a direct outcome of reforms in the Education and Training System that are geared towards developing, implementing and coordinatingan improved, quality assured and seamless education and training system. The main goalof the reforms is to produce a human resource that is robust and competent to meet the needs of the employer, both locally and internationally.

BQA has seen a tremendous growth in the number of registered and accredited training providers. The number now stands at 717 compared to 42 in 2004. This means to a great extent that quality; access, equity and relevance of education and training have been improving over the years. There were only 47 provisionally registered trainers in 2004 compared to 7,300 currently and 2,944 fully registered in 2015. The number of learning programmes, registered unit standards, registered qualification and recognition of prior learning candidates have also increased significantly.

The issue of graduands unemployment  is of great concern hence the HRDC to handle human resource planning and inform BQA on industry needs.

We have come a long way as a country from the days of ‘motho le motho kgomo ‘to the emergence of a number of public and private training providers that provide quality assured learning programmes taught by registered trainers.

Going forward we will need the HRDC to work closely with the industry, Business Botswana, to identify skills needs, feed the BQA with such valuable data, who in-turn will consult the training providers about the market needs.

 Goitse Matlapele

*I am a trade Unionist

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