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JCE results: Hands off our teachers!

Joe Brown

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To whom it may concern

The debate on the recently released Junior Certificate Examination results has taken the same pattern as has been the case over the years. The quality of the results themselves has not changed either – if anything, overall performance has continued to decline drastically.

Yet I find it curious and somewhat strange to always hear analysts blame the poor quality of results entirely on shortage of books at schools, prohibitive student-teacher ratio, automatic progression, reduced contact time between teachers and learners and general shortage of human and infrastructural resources. In fact, every year after the release of the results, be it PLSE, JCE or BGCSE results, one is certain to see analysts come up with the same old boring ‘education system’ rhetoric. Poor education system blah blahblah! Never anything else.

I do agree that the education system is PARTLY to blame and needs some revamp as I will share later, but I find it strange that many of us who have achieved academically in life and those of us who blame the education system, have also gone through the same education system to be where we are. And, incidentally, during our times as primary and secondary students, when our colleagues had performed badly in the final exams, analysts of the time still blamed the education system for their failure.

And often, those who blame the education system will never even come up with a solution – some form of advice on what the government can specifically do to change the status quo. They never even elaborate on exactly what area of the education system needs to be changed. Government too, has continued to pour scorn on this widely parroted rhetoric. Strangely, rarely do we ever hear of any analysis that gives insight into the nucleus of the learning process and the attendant dynamics. There is perhaps a serious need to start talking about the issues of behaviour and general conduct with respect to the three important stakeholders in the education web itself – the parent, the student and the teacher.

Do students exert enough effort in their own education? Do these students arrive at school with the right frame of mind desirous of participating in the learning process? Do teachers themselves have full commitment towards their role of imparting knowledge and facilitating learning? Is it all of the teachers who really have the passion to facilitate learning? Are the parents themselves bothered about what happens with their children when both at home and at school? Do parents play the desired role in ensuring their children are ready for learning? There has in the past been a temptation to want to blame teachers for the consistency in these poor results. There is talk of teachers who are lazy and do not even give feedback to learners for the entire period of their studies.

There are teachers who just do not care about the profession they serve and just go to school for the heck of it while awaiting another pay day. Such cases do exist and are unfortunate, but at the end of it all, it is the student and their parent that have to take more responsibility for their education. The teacher and the school system should be there to facilitate, to guide and to aid learning. You see, Batswana tota rona re loilwe. We are a spoilt nation and without any effort of our own, we always want to point a finger at Government when anything goes wrong.

Kana I was shocked maloba when a farmer blamed the death of his cows on Government after nine of them were razed down by a haulage truck en route to Zambia. Government’s fault here was that the barrier fence along the road is not being maintained and because elephants have floored the fence, his cattle wandered into the highway where they would eventually die.

I mean really?
And this is a guy who only visits the cattlepost twice in a year and has a herd man whose bi-annual pay is a pair of used worn-out trousers, worn-out shirts, worn-out shoes, a 50kg bag of maize meal and cartons of Chibuku. No enclosures or feed bays or any feeds for his cattle whatsoever, and depends on rain to create food for his animals. And such is the mentality that we carry around when things somehow go wrong.

We never look at ourselves and the opportunities we are given to eke out a life. We are quick to blame someone else for our self-inflicted mishaps. Even as Government is spending a considerable amount of money on educating our children, we still can’t do our little bit, even if it is just time to be there for our children when needed. For your information, for the financial year 2012/13, government was spending P17 340 on each Junior Secondary School child per annum. I use these old figures because for now they are the ones available to me. Imagine how much that is today, eight years later. And we were later asked to contribute only 5 percent in cost sharing, which many of us are still not doing. What more do we, parents, want? As I say this, several parents are up in arms protesting their children’s JCE results, yet they never cared one little bit to know how their children were doing at school for the three full years they were there.

Despite the efforts of the teachers to get them to share in the responsibility of educating their own children, the parents just stayed away and carried on with their own lives. Even where the parents were told of the wayward behaviour of their children in schools, they could not be bothered, only labelling the poor teachers ‘lazy’ and failing to do their job! Now the chickens have duly come home to roost. What should be the shock now? Those who blame the education system are coming out now after the results are released as usual, to vent their ‘frustrations’ when they never bothered to educate parents on the role they need to play in the education of their own children. And it baffles me why these analysts and activists blame the same education system that has seen them become

who they are today. And why be selective when we blame the education system? Is the education system only bad when analysing results of those who failed and there is nothing to say about the same education system when looking at the results of those who have done well? Why do other children do well under the same education system? And this is where I believe we need to be going in our analysis of the results – not just to keep saying ‘poor education system’ without really pointing to the real issues.

Unfortunately the trends in the modern school are those of unruly students who themselves seem to lack self-motivation and who do not seem to know why they are in school in the first place.
And I again blame the parents. History has shown that the performance results of a motivated and committed student are not always dependent on the conduct of their teacher or the situation in the school they attend.

In the recent past, Kagiso Senior Secondary School produced the best student in the country when the school was itself the last in the perking order. And this kid, because I know, did not come from a wealthy family – just committed parents to the child’s education. In 2018, Moeding College was ranked Number 20 in line but had a student with 10 A-stars. Such students bear testimony to the fact that with the right motivation and support from parents the status of a school or the character of a teacher counts for nothing. In the end, the behaviour of students and their attitudes towards learning count for more than just the issue of the system or resources.

An effort is therefore needed from the child, and there is no better place to cultivate such attitudes than at home. The parents should be the frontline of everything; they should set the right tone and give their child a proper atmosphere to perform. When the child returns from school, they should seek to know what it is the child learnt and set out to assist in the learning at every opportunity.
Unfortunately not many parents care – which is why we have had cases of students who would skip school for weeks and the parent would not even be aware.

Parental involvement as well as self-motivation and personal responsibility on the part of the students are sadly lacking in our schools today, leading many students towards not turning in assignments and blowing off tests. Learning involves give and take from both the teacher and student, and as it is, the focus cannot always be on blaming the teacher and not acknowledging the other issues precedent.Such issues could be motivation, study habits, academic preparedness, external factors, attitudes and relevance among others. And all these require an interested parent.
Analysts and activists who solely attack the education system should note that even if the system can be changed, as long as parents do not come to the party, and children remain wayward, we are wasting our time.

It is criminal for teachers to be expected to put aside their core roles so that they do for students what their parents should have done in the first place. May the parents therefore please stand up and be counted, so that we can now discuss the education system – as I begin to do now. Nna tota I think it is high time Government considered that inequalities in our society are innate and we cannot ignore them as we craft our education curriculum. A generic curriculum especially at primary school level is the downfall of many of our children even later at secondary school level.

I mean why should a Mosarwa child born and raised in abject poverty deep in the dry and desolate sands of the Kalahari be expected to understand books that depict skyscrapers, ships, aeroplanes and dams among other things so remote to him? As much as it may be costly, can’t we give such communities the type of education that will make sense to them, and allow only those who show signs of superior comprehension to proceed with components of a generic curriculum?

Besides, a lot of money is already being spent in education but with no meaningful results. Why not formulate a curriculum that allows children from early childhood education to identify their areas of strength and be slotted in schools that cater for their various talents? We cannot run away from the fact that the poor JCE results are a consequence of how we enrolled the children at primary school level. Vocationalise education from an early age and allow problem solvers, critical thinkers and innovators to progress parallel with one another. (TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK)

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This lockdown is going to plunge many into depression

Joe Brown

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Dear Mokgweetsi Masisi

Today, Wednesday April 1, 2020, marks exactly two years since you were sworn in as President of this republic, and I wonder how you will be celebrating this milestone while under quarantine. Kana right now we could be coming over there to celebrate with you had you not blundered by attending  that State House pool party in Namibia. Your residence would be lit this time, ree ja joy in celebration of your second anniversary since your ascendance to the highest office on the Tswana land. Knowing you, this corona thing would have been shoved aside to allow the world to know gore you are turning two years as President – even after announcing a lockdown on Tuesday. Akere wena you are often thus – you say this, you do the other. Kana gape it would be your chance to show that Namibian President gore le wena you can gather people for a celebration even amidst this state of public emergency. Akere le ene despite global warnings against international travel he decided to host a party and invited you – the result of which you are now in quarantine. I just wonder how Atsile and MmaAtsile are coping with an absent Daddy and Hubby. In fact, we haven’t heard much of our lovely First Lady since you went into quarantine – even at this odd hour when a mother-figure is needed to reassure the nation that all will be alright. O re costile motherlove Morena. Kana if it wasn’t for that reckless trip, we could be seeing her around with you. Jaanong mmanyana gatwe a seka a go atumela shem…
Anyway, it was great to see you looking fit and strong on Tuesday morning BraMEK, and we are glad you are showing no signs of infection. Kana yo mogare e bile ga o tlhaole. It doesn’t care if you are a British Prime Minister, German Chancellor or a Royal Prince. Neither does it care if you are a Head of State, or popular football star or internationally-acclaimed movie star – e ralla anyone Covid-19, rich or poor; black or white and everything in between. So seeing you looking that healthy after that risky Namibia trip has helped reassure us that within the gloom and doom of the socio-economic crisis created by the virus world-wide, there is that silver lining of remembering that it does not just infect unless invited to, and that even when it has infected one, death is not always a given. I realise however that you waited for your anniversary day to pass without impediment before you could institute the start of the lockdown tomorrow. We support your decisiveness nonetheless and promise to abide by the guidelines laid before us to boost our survival chance against this monster of a virus. I see you have even tried to do all in your power to ensure individuals and business entities do not feel the extreme wrath of this Covid-19 and the attendant lockdown. Among the things in your rescue package I see you talk of tax holidays for businesses; access to credit; immediate reconnection of water; decrease in fuel prices; an economic stimulus package; loan guarantees for businesses; restructuring of loans with banks; relaxed payment of insurance premiums for both individuals and companies; provision of a wage subsidy for citizen employees of businesses mostly affected by the virus in order to enable them to retain employees; expedited payments to business entities by government and parastatals … and other interventions intended go fokotsa manokonoko a Covid-19. Yet there are those still in tears Big MEK, who ask gore bone gatwe bone ke ba ga mang. These are the folks who live from hand to mouth, who worry that the lockdown will kill them even faster than the virus itself. Akere Tautona there are people who make an instant daily stipend from clearing the weeds, doing laundry, selling fatcakes, selling cooltime, veggies, sweets and mabudula on the streets as well as those who sell traditional beer? How do they make money for their groceries ne Tautona? What measures do you have in place for them? In your address on Tuesday morning you did not elaborate on that and I pray that by the time this letter reaches you, you would have clarified the matter. Kana these are the people who will not comply because one way or the other, they would have to go out there to hassle. I bet they were wondering who exactly you were talking to when you mentioned the issue of panic buying. You need to urgently come up with a plan for them BraMEK, otherwise they may have to choose between death by hunger and death by corona. Go riana there is one mosadimogolo in Ramotswa who was made to spill away her traditional brew last week, despite having started the fermentation process two days before Trade Minister Peggy Serame decreed that there would be no sale of alcohol. Gatwe mosadimogolo o sale a bedisa ka Tuesday before the ban on sale of alcohol was announced ka Thursday. Her brew got ready for sale on Saturday but your men of the law came hard on her, making her throw it all away. Imagine such instances BraMEK on our oldies who seem to have been left out in your disucusions ahead of the sale ban of bojwala. Others BraMEK say you never even bothered to address their worries against landlords who will still demand rent for their houses despite the tenants not going out to work and make money on the streets. There are also these chaps who depend on our absence from our homes to make a living – the ones who take advantage of our absence to break into our homes to take what they never had to sweat for. Ba re o ba bolaile because homesteads will be occupied throughout the day. They worry that with soldiers and police officers expected to be unleashed on the streets, they may have a difficult time to do any work at night. And in the case these chaps continue to work and flout the lockdown and extreme social distancing rules, what can we expect you to do with them Tautona? Could they straightaway be charged with attempted murder should they test positive for coronavirus? Akere by coming into our homes they would have exposed us to harm? And then there are the ladies of the night BraMEK, although I know you would argue that the law does not recognise them. But hey, they are there and their hassle is real. If you are going to keep their customers under lockdown, how will they survive? Kana e bile these days they are a bit sophisticated – they rent houses from which they operate, where their clients meet them for a roll in the hay. They have to make money for both the rent and their meals. If we don’t aid them they too pose a risk as they might sneak out to go and meet their clients ‘halfway’ and end up infecting each other. As I said earlier, I hope you do something about these forgotten citizens, even if it is it could mean dropping a bag of Tsabana in each household. Note also that suddenly – after you announced the lockdown – some employers out there are beginning to label their traditionally lowly-regarded workers as ‘essential service employees.’ Yet they have nothing to offer them commensurate with the new label. Others are dismissing employees already, claiming the lockdown will kill their business. And with the grounding of public transport vehicles, these companies have no plan how to get their essential service workers to the workplace. Ne kere le bone ba o ba tlhodumele Tautona. And on a more serious note, I worry about our mental health BraMEK. I tell you this lockdown is going to have its toll on the mental health of many. There is too much anxiety right now and there is a general fear of the unknown. With no light visible at the other end of the tunnel, many will be choking in there, worried about the uncertainty of everything including the well-being of relatives, the security around their jobs, the inability to attend funerals of their loved ones… resulting in rising stress levels and possible depression. Some couples will be annoying each other and expect cases of GBV to rise during this period. I hope you will look into such matters to ensure people are given some form of counselling and advice, especially through television and radio. Otherwise we thank you for acting on this lockdown thing sooner than later – although I still feel it should have come earlier. It was always going to be pointless to wait for deaths to go uncontrollably high before we could take the virus seriously. You had no choice but to put us down into extreme social distancing. Mistakes are going to happen along the way, and I hope we will help you go through correcting them amicably together without pointing fingers. And what an opportune time for bonding to happen! Parents will school their children and tertiary students will have enough time to reorganise themselves in preparation of the next time the coursework rooms open. Husbands and wives who all along did not see eye to eye will emerge from this lockdown a lot closer. And during the potentially lonely days, I hope there will be enough and clear communication to keep people at ease. For now it is Goodbye Mr President. Pass my warmest regards to my cousin Neo and her little girl. And sorry about the sleepless nights you and especially Health Minister Lems Kwape have to endure. I really feel for the poor chap; and pass this message to him that we all love him. We see what he is doing and what he is going through. Cheers for now MEK.

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Ebenezer!

Yvonne Mooka

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This year marks my 10th year as an employee of The Botswana Guardian and The Midweek Sun newspapers, under the CBET Pty Ltd company.

I still remember one afternoon of 2010 when I was in Francistown. I was waiting for my graduation from the University of Botswana where I did Bachelor of Media Studies. I had just started a freelancing job with Mmegi in the Ghetto when one of the Guardian/Sun managers Tlotlo Mbazo called me offering a job opportunity. See, during our time, UB newspaper- then known as The UB Horizon was hyped and big.

We distributed it across newsrooms in the country. In addition to this, one of my former Journalism lecturers Julia Cass had advised us to always cut our articles and keep portfolios and later send them across media houses for opportunities. So when MmaMbazo called me about an opportunity that had come up, I knew she had seen my work that I had submitted a few months before closing at UB.

Coming into the Guardian/Sun newsroom the first days was exciting yet challenging at the same time. I found many male colleagues that were also very loud and pushy. Intimidating. At times, annoying. Some were old, reminding me of the set up in international newsrooms where journalists are older. The 24 year-old me then was timid and emotional…but zealous and curious. I was impressed however by the female journos that oozed energy and passion.

The truth about the media industry is that there was a time when it was male-dominated. Women were thrown into light beats and strong ones were tackled by males. Though it was the case with Guardian/Sun then, seeing the likes of Phemelo Ramaribeng nee Ramasu pursue News was encouraging. Her human interest stories to a larger extent  contributed to my love for Human Rights issues.

I worked under the leadership of great men who all shaped my career in special ways. The likes of peculiar Mpho Dibeela who has since gone into newspaper ownership; Mike Mothibi, the sophisticated writer with a passion for farming; courageous Abraham Motsokono who called a spade a spade and not a big spoon; fatherly Ernest Moloi who helped build resilience in me; Mbazo, woman of the board who leads tenderly but with a stern posture; Justice Kavahematui with a very calm demeanor; Joe Brown-Tlhaselo the perfectionist who pays attention to every detail in the paper – in fact it was Joe-Brown who welcomed me the first day by offering me a chair and lunch! And then there is  Boitshepo Balozwi, my editor-turned-friend who every now and then blesses me with pearls of wisdom when ‘the devil wants to lie,’ as well as Dikarabo Ramadubu, our moving encyclopaedia.

Still under this list falls Beatrice Mbulawa, the magnificent General Manager who came with a unique style of managing a media house as a finance-steel lady. Joel Konopo and Ntibinyane Ntibinyane have always been deep hence their now establishment of the bullish INK Centre for Investigative Journalism. In 2012, they took me to Amabunghane Centre for Investigative Journalism in South Africa where my mindset changed altogether. That was an investment that I will always use in my Journalism. Douglas Tsiako also deserves recognition for always believing in me. Special mention of Ditiro Motlhabane for always putting me on my toes about my stories as my News Editor.

My colleagues across every department in The Guardian/Sun throughout the decade, both new and old, have been fascinating. The team is a rare, winning breed. Group dynamics is as real as it gets but I can say unfazed, that I learn a lot from every single individual in our newsroom. The energy here is right. It’s amazing.

So much can be said about my decade in our newsroom. Perhaps, my number one lesson is that of servitude. Journalists are servants. They should serve. At church we say EBENEZER – Thus far the Lord has brought me. Thank you.

Facebook/Instagram: Yvonne Tshepang Mooka
LinkedIn: Yvonne Mooka
Twitter: @yvonnemooka
Email: yvonnequeen2003@gmail.com

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