The state of education in Botswana has been on a nose dive in recent years. The government has shown no commitment in addressing the issue. We from Takatokwane have been the worst hit, we are the lowest of the low. If we don't cry out, then the world may just forget about us and we will remain isolated and vulnerable to the abuse of this government. I call it abuse because education is a fundamental human right. What is happening in Takatokwane is a gross violation of human rights. Allow me to sound the horn in this article in this article by painting, to the best of my ability, a picture of how the BDP government has completely collapsed education in Takatokwane Constituency.
I start off with the much acclaimed Mahupu Unified School, a brainchild of this government. The school has been performing dismally since its inception. Established as a pilot project in 2016, to this day the school operates without any clear guidelines. Due to the acute shortage of teachers since inception, the limited number of teachers at the school are forced to juggle both JC &BGCSE Syllabus rendering them ineffective as those that specialized in certain subjects are now expected to compromise and teach other subjects that they are not well trained on. They are also expected, against regulations, to teach for more than 8 hours a day, any dissenting voice is threatened and quickly dealt with. In some instances, students can go a full year without a meaningful educational engagement. The teachers, much to their credit, have tried to suggest solutions to the problems faced by the school, including how the unified school classes should be supervised but all that has fallen on deaf ears. The non-academic departments are also facing challenges because of the 2 in one school, e.g senior teacher 1 sports is responsible for planning, organizing and attending meetings and competitions at different levels, making it too much to handle, hence poor attendance of classes. All these problems are well documented at the Ministry of Basic Education, but nothing has been done except to victimize and threaten all those that make efforts to address the problem. It is clear that the government does not care about the situation Mahupu Unified School. If at all they did, all these issues I raise would have long been addressed. Teachers should either teach at junior level or senior level if we want them to be effective at their job. Alternatively, for teachers that are willing and competent to teach both levels there should be a significant incentive provided along with humane conditions of services. There must also be clear guidelines on supervision and monitoring both JC and BGCSE in a Unified school set up.
The outbreak of hysteria disease at Lempu JSS has also caused a great alarm and trepidation among people of Salajwe, Khumelapye, Kaudwane and the entire Takatokwane constituency. The outbreak started last year leading to more than 140 students been sent home. I personally made efforts by contacting the authorities at Ministry of Basic Education, Ministry of Health, Lempu JSS management and even met some of the parents. Nothing concrete was been done to address the problem. Two weeks ago students who have been out of school since February this year were returned to school. The majority of them were form 3 students who are supposed to sit for their final exams in 2 months’ time. Some of students’ parents were forced to write letters for their students to repeat classes next year. The whole situation has left students and parents hopeless and devastated. All these were caused by the government’s frailer to give the matter the agency and seriousness it deserved.
Takatokwane brigade which is also in a sorry state. There are damaged and dilapidated classes, labs and workshops, with no proper learning material. As of now students have not been able to write their final exam from Madirelo Training Centre which is essential as it makes up 40% of their final mark. The authorities have not acted on this nor communicated to them and teaching staff. The current allowance is P300 per month, subjecting students to starvation and desperation. Rent for 1 room in Takatokwane cost P500, not forgetting toiletry and other basic needs. Students cannot even go for attachment because the government doesn’t support them with attachment allowance like it is the case with other tertiary intuitions. My position is that the government has failed to address pertinent issues faced by Takatokwane brigade, more especially conditions and welfare of brigade students and teaching stuff. The Takatokwane bridge students must be paid allowance that is equal to other tertiary institutions and the teaching stuff also deserves better working conditions.
Our primary schools in the entire constituency are the worst hit. There are no books, learning material and even printing papers that are used for tests and exams. There is also lack of accommodation for teaching staff. All these concerns have been raised before by teaching staff and trade unions but all they got were empty promises. This is why we say the government of the day lack commitment, in fact not only do they lack commitment, they lack honesty and integrity a they have continually misled and hoodwink our people for so long in an attempt to pacify them whenever they got fed up with the pathetic conditions they are subjected to.
As a parliamentary candidate for Takatokwane and civil rights activist I vehemently believe we should create an education system that instils a new value system that is inspired by and nourishes integrity, honesty, truth, decency and respect for the sanctity of the human life. One of our goals as the Alliance of Progressives, a party that I represent, is that the AP government we’ll ignite a learning and skills development revolution that will inspire passion for success and restore Batswana’s confidence in their capability for self-reliance, excellence, creativity and innovation and thus be the oil for Botswana’s economic locomotive, invest 50% of the education budget on Vocational and Technical training and increase the technical/vocational share of students in secondary school to 50% from the current 8%.
I will be much privileged to represent these issues in Parliament.
*Jacob Kelebeng. Takatokwane Parliamentary Candidate [AP-Young Progressives President]