President Ian Khama has said that his government is committed to improving the working conditions of teachers. Speaking in Gaborone on Friday at an excellence awards ceremony to recognise best performing students, he said government has now implemented levels of operation whereby teachers are paid in accordance with their qualifications and experience rather than whether they are at the primary or secondary school levels. The project on procurement of teachers' housing is on course to ensure appropriate accommodation wherever they are, he added.
Early this year, Khama sent cabinet ministers and some top senior government officials to schools with a view to conducting an assessment of the teaching and learning environment. The President said after the findings were made, they established working committees at different levels to work with the education ministry to resolve the issues at hand, find durable solutions so as to improve performance.
“Against this backdrop, a committee of senior officials chaired by the Permanent Secretary to the President is in place and reports to a committee of Ministers chaired by the Vice President, who in turn reports to me,” he said.
“The lessons that have been learnt are many and very positive. It has now become very clear that all stakeholders in the business of educating this nation need to work together in a more collaborative manner than ever before. It can no longer be enough for the BEC to function only as a gauge or "dip stick" at the end of a process,” he said.
The President said there is a greater need for the Botswana Examinations Council to work closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure that curriculum is delivered properly, within a conducive teaching and learning environment, and that it relates directly to assessment. With students, parents, teachers and the wider communities playing their respective roles, “we should be able to turn the situation around within a reasonable timeframe,” he said.
He said concerted initiatives are underway to transform and reform the entire education sub-sector. The MoESD is currently finalising, with support from the European Union, a sector strategic plan that will turn the sector around. He said the turn-around strategy, led by education minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, is intended to change the situation in the management of schools in the short term. These efforts collectively should result in positive changes in educational performance, he said.
The BEC, he noted, has also begun a major transformation exercise that should see it turn into a high performance National Assessment Authority by 2016. The bill to turn it into such is expected to be discussed in Parliament in due course. The transformation will not only transform BEC into a high performance organization, it will also produce a national assessment policy that should assist in monitoring learning at various critical points in general education, through programmes such as national assessment to provide general system level feedback and monitoring of learning achievement of different cohorts of learners at different stages in the schooling system.
“It is also quite encouraging to note that corporate entities and some individuals continue to support schools through the 'Adopt-a-School' initiative and that improved performance is evident at some of these schools. I wish to furthermore emphasise the need for parents and the wider communities to work with government towards improving performance of the education system so that we can realise our national goals of equitable, accessible and quality education,” he said.
The BEC awards, awarded in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, are given to students whose performance in the Primary School Leaving Examinations, Junior Certificate Examinations and the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education is outstanding. The expectation is that those who are still in the primary and secondary schools system would be motivated to work harder and perform better so that they could be recognized during the next award ceremony, said Khama.
“No one can celebrate when our young people fail to reach desired achievement levels. However, we take solace in the fact that the results made us pause and introspect. For the Botswana Examinations Council, questions were raised on the grading system and the extent to which teachers were familiar with it. On the other hand, the Ministry of Education, there were questions on the curriculum and related elements. There were also serious questions about the physical environment including the condition of classrooms and laboratories in the schools and their conduciveness to learning,” he said.