The Leader of Opposition in parliament-Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) president Duma Boko has accused government and the current education system of denying poor Batswana an opportunity to participate in and benefit from meaningfully rewarding economic activities.
Presenting a statement on the 2014 Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (BGCSE) results on Wednesday Boko said the dismal perfomance of students bespeaks tragedy. He highlighted the fact that consistently underperforming schools are in the rural areas in particular regions of the country. This trend he says is exacerbating the gross income inequalities that has characterized the country for quite some time now. Education, according to Boko, is the most potent vehicle for upward social mobility in this country and under the current education system this would prove to be too impossible a task. “The poor and indeed the whole country, have pinned their hopes for a better life on their children perfoming well at school and ultimately landing jobs or other opportunities with a sustainable income. These hopes are being dashed by the poor perfomance of government schools generally and the rural based schools in particular. The result of the poor education system is an ever widening gap between the better off urban and the desperately poor rural populations,” he said.
Boko observed that consistently it is schools in the western and north-western parts of the country that underperform. “Drawing the logic of education as a means of unlocking people’s potentialities , it stands to reason that residents of these regions are marginalized economically relative to their counterparts in the eastern parts of the country where overall school perfomance is far much better," he said.
Boko challenged government to confront the ‘cynical crisis’ in the education system aggressively and systematically. He said a number of key issues that currently need to be addressed include; the less than satisfactory management at school level, poor working environment for teachers, poor preparation for students for secondary schooling, intellectually unhealthy learning environment for learners and their teachers and a disconnect between the desired outcomes and the practice on the ground, marked by a lack of compelling or animating vision at all levels to push the desired outcomes.
Responding to Boko’statement, The Minister of Education and Skills Development Unity Dow said government is currently devising a strategic plan geared at addressing the same issues he raised. However, Boko said unless government takes a holistic approach towards addressing the problem by involving all stakeholders then all is bound to fail. He also dismissed Francistown West MP Ignatius Moswaane’s comment that the education system was currently in shambles because teachers abandoned their students and classes to partake in the 2011 public service strike. Moswaane accused the opposition of fueling the strike, saying they are equally to blame for the poor results.
According to Boko the 2011 strike only exposed how bad the situation has become, the BGCSE Results he says have been declining since 2006. “The strike was a progressive occurrence and it was triggered by the very same poor conditions we are talking about,” he said.