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Crisis in education, a new broom is needed

Basic Education Minster Unity Dow is a bygone now, no improvements in the mainstream public education of the country during her epoch, I mean none at all, in fact there has been noticeable degradation through the ever dwindling final year results across all streams.

The incoming minister should be brave, independent minded, have an in depth knowledge of the country's education set up, not a sycophant, he or she should be ready to raffle feathers even within his fellow cabinet Ministers to have his or colleagues at cabinet listen to him or her. We are tired of tight-lipped Ministers who cannot advocate for their Ministries and start to cry out when they are leaving. 

The incoming Minister of Basic Education should prioritize on the following fundamental issues to revamp and reenergize the country's education, with these, then he or she can get things right within a year or so of his or her assumption of office;

1. Reduction of class sizes. This is a serious challenge to effective teaching and learning in schools. It will require in the long term, more infrastructure in schools, but in the short term, more teachers and resources. This in our view is attainable.

2. Adoption of real and honest dual path ways system in the education set of the country. It will involve students who are not academically and theoretically oriented but vocationally oriented and gifted in other talents, identified at an early age, and allowed to pursue those paths. This will however require resources being channelled towards the development of the schools of excellence for the pursuance of these talents, the revamping of the vocational education to give it the same status and prominence as the theoretical academic one. This will ultimately resolve the problem of automatic promotion which is a debilitating factor against quality education. Needless to say that this country should shift focus from training for blue collar jobs.

3. Resolve hours of work in the teaching services. This issue as has been said several times. It has resulted in the reduction of contact time between learners and the teachers, and has drastically affected teaching and learning in schools. It started in 2010 when the PSA became operational yet it has been allowed to drag on for almost 8 years now. It is central to ailing and rotting education system this country.

4. Reviving the in-service department of the Ministry as opposed to concentrating on strengthening the inspectorate department that is rather seen as a witch - hunting and fault finding instrument. The in - service department has literally collapsed. It used to serve the role of up -skilling, re - tooling and re - sharpening in-service teachers through subject workshops. This enabled teachers to be always at par with the ever changing syllabus contents and teaching methodologies.

5. Shortage of resources in schools. Currently schools operate without basic necessities such as textbooks for students, note books, photocopiers, and let alone departmental computers. This is really basic, and defies logic that such rudimentary needs can still be a challenge in a serious education system at this era and age. Technical subjects such as D&T, Art, PE, Chemistry, Physics, go for quite a long time and in some cases for the whole academic year with appropriate

paraphernalia including dire shortages of technical rooms for teaching such subjects.

6. Downsizing the curriculum. There is no doubt that, by this time, government through the HRDC should be aware of the human resource needs of the country, that is, what the job market needs, and as such the curriculum should at all levels be geared towards fulfilling the specific country's human resource needs. We cannot afford anymore to have such bulky curriculum in which students are required to learn seven or more subjects, the curriculum should rather be tied to the needs of the job market. 

7. Size of schools and issues of students indiscipline - there is need for a drastic review of the size of schools in view of enabling close monitoring and control of students. We have schools in Botswana with students population amounting to 2500, and even more.These are large communities that have proved difficult to handle, and indiscipline in such schools has sky - rocketed, and has become notoriously uncontrollable, resulting in the impediments in effective teaching and learning. 

8. Capacitation of school administrators. There is no doubt that some schools have been let down by poor management. School managers are not necessarily to blame for such ineptitudes, these are just teachers that happen to have been promoted into managerial positions, but left there at deep end without being up - tooled and up - skilled at least with crusher courses on management and issues of human resource. This is one aspect that has contributed significantly towards this disastrous performance of schools. 

9. Raising the moral of teachers. Teaching as they say is a noble profession, is the mother of all professions, and no doubt, is the anchor, foundation, and mainstay of any country's development. It supplies the economy with appropriate human resource. In actual fact, all over the world, emerging economies are for those countries that have adopted a human resource driven economy, rather than natural resources. Teachers and teaching therefore are central in developing any country's human resource that will ultimately drive the economy. In Finland for example, teachers are the most paid cadre, not only as a way of attracting the best, but also to keep them motivated. We need a Minister of Education who will agitate for that without fear or favor, and also agitate for improved working conditions for teachers, such as improvement in their accommodation situation, resourced working rooms, and an enabling and wider progressional structure.

10. Abolition of the dual administration of primary education. Currently the primary education administration it's such that the issues of curriculum and teacher welfare falls under the Ministry of Basic Education whole matters of resources at those are within domain of the Local Government Ministry, this has caused serious administrative and operational flows, and mismatch in resource allocation. The incoming Minister should ensure that Primary Education is wholly ceded to the Basic Education Ministry.

*TOBOKANI RARI is the secretary general of Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU)


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