Secretary general of Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Tobokani Rari says the first problem with public schools is that they have outgrown the establishment register.
Rari explained that the country has the case as confirmed by the Minister of Basic Education in 842 schools. “The infrastructure that was meant for a certain number of students has now been outgrown by the number of students,” Rari explained. He added that education officials are not able to make proper projections in terms of facilities in schools versus the population growth.
“This is now creating shortage of classes, bigger class sizes and also shortage of teachers, resulting in hiring of temporary teachers. When resources are distributed there is always a shortage of resources due to under-budgeting. There is a failure to keep pace with growth of settlements, villages, towns and cities where the schools are located.” Rari also attributed the problem to lack of correlation between demographers and Ministry officials since the problem is caused by population growth.
“The second problem is dilapidation of infrastructure in schools. If you go across all the schools in the country, everything is broken. This is as a result of lack of proper maintenance plan in schools. It takes more than six months to a year to fix a broken door handle,” he said.
The unionist further asserted that the third problem is that in 2010 when the Public Service Act (PSA), No 30 of 2008 was implemented, it was agreed that teachers would be regulated like other public servants in accordance with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention of hours of work, which if it is eight hours in a day it will be overtime.
“As trade unions we feel that it was necessary because it was aligning the otherwise draconian piece of legislation of Teaching Service Act, which said that the whole time of a teacher shall be at the disposal
Rari explained that: “the problem with teachers’ work is peculiar. It requires that during the normal working hours they deliver instructions and after hours they do preparatory work”.
He said the government on the other hand says they do not have resources to remunerate the teachers for overtime. This means that teachers do not do enrichment activities like giving students exercises, work tests, remedial and coursework.
“This is where the greatest problem is. Having transformed from old order of Teaching Service Act to the new order of Public Service Act, government is not prepared to move in line with the new order of compensating teachers for extra work.” There are also extra-curricular activities that take place after hours. Teachers cannot do them because they are owed millions of pula by the government.
Rari attributed the dropping of final examination results since 2011 to the introduction PSA in 2010. He said this was the problem that the government did not want to face. He mentioned automatic progression as another educational problem. He said BOSETU is of the view that they did not need an education system that allowed automatic progression. As a union, he said, they needed an education system that allowed for multiple pathways.
These were sectors which students could be channelled into in accordance with their competencies, talents and skills. He said the country needed schools of excellence (academies) and technikons like it used to be the neighbouring South Africa.
He explained that this would avoid the challenges of automatic progression. As a part shot he said; “Some of the students are not theoretically oriented, hence we have a large number of failures in our education system”.