Despite considerable progress that Botswana has made over the last 20 years, jumping to a middle income country, mainly due to extensive mineral reserves, major economic and social challenges remain. Hence a joke is often made about the country being rich in infrastructure while the population wallows in poverty. We daresay, without well thought-out policies and programmes deliberately designed to develop the human capital of this country we run the risk of reversing the gains we have made since the discovery of diamonds. This danger has been acknowledged by the minister of education when she told an HRDC gathering last year that no national on earth can lay claim to its safety and security when its people are beggars and all they experience on a daily basis is the pang of hunger. We can only hope that the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP 2015-2020), which she has been waving in the face of anyone looking for answers over the current crisis in our education system bears fruit.
The strategic plan underscores the relevance and significance of TVET skills as prerequisites to economic diversification, avenues for job creation, solutions to poverty alleviation, and ultimately and answer to beneficiation of minerals and other resources to drive the economy forward. Recognition of this fact will allow TVET to take centre stage in tertiary education to provide an answer to long time problem of demand and supply mismatch of skills in the economy. Many young graduates roaming the streets with meaningless degrees and diplomas would not be there if government had recognised the importance of TVET and channeled these students in that direction instead of wasting time with over supplied qualifications in the market. It boggles the mind how it took Botswana 50 years of independence to recognise the importance of technical skills to the economy, which for all intends and purposes is a developing country.
At a tertiary education conference under the theme ‘promoting human resource development and employability through technical and vocational education training skills’ speaker after speaker went on to extoll the values of developing this sector of education which hold great potential as demonstrated by some developed countries. We are tempted to believe that recent developments at government enclave point to the re-awakening and focus on critical areas. For any developing economy, as has repeatedly become abundantly clear, there is a serious need for technical and vocational skills to support strategic sectors of the economy and to grow industries. It is an open secret that the mining industry particularly diamond mining is always crying out to government to provide skilled labour. The same problem extends to Manufacturing, Textile, Automobile and others. Even at domestic level we import such skills from our neighbours up north. Enhancing technical and vocational education and training is one solution to economic diversification from over reliance on diamonds.
For what it is worth, it is comforting that concerted efforts have of late been focused on improving tertiary education with particular emphasis on vocational education. Such a move is commendable. Matambo said concerned with the declining education performance, Government adopted the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) in 2015, whose implementation is expected to address the quality of existing Vocational Education and Training programmes as a way of equipping the youth with appropriate skills.