According to Statistics Botswana, total formal sector employment stood at 494,457, of which 232,394 were males (47.0 percent) and 262,063 (53.0 percent) were females as at December 2021.
Further, the national accounts office states that persons employed in the formal sector are largely concentrated in ages 25 to 44 years, with the age group 35-39 recording the highest employment at 17.3 percent (85,709 persons). The ages of 35-39, are what government classifies as adults in Botswana. Those classified as youth, basically the 25-29 and 30-34 age groups, followed at 15.3 percent each with 75,881 and 75,465 persons respectively.
Another adult age group, the 40-44 bracket, recorded 14.9 (73,563 persons) percent. According to Statistics Botswana, which is under the stewardship of Statistician General Dr Burton Mguni, the figure shows that from age group 35-39 to 65-69, the female formal sector employment was above male employment. An interesting picture is painted by these numbers. Basically, the young people represent less than half of the 494 457 formally employed Batswana.
The total unemployment rate is estimated at around 26 percent (although debatable), but over 60 percent of that is said to be the youth. The high unemployment is blamed on lack of economic activity and government’s failure to create an enabling environment for the private sector to become the engine of growth. However, there are arguments that Botswana’s education system produces graduates who are not employment-ready at tertiary level. The paining part is that of recent, students seem not to even progress to tertiary or senior education. They either fail the Junior Secondary School Certificate (JSSE) examinations or at the Botswana Government Certificate in Secondary Education (BGCSE) level.
In a quest to establish how deep-rooted this failure is, The Business Weekly & Review studied figures from the past five years which show that from 2017 to 2021, the pass rate has been hovering between 28 percent and 30 percent. Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) shows that in 2017, out of a total of 37 251 candidates, only 28.47 percent of them obtained grade C or better. In the subsequent years of 2018, 2019 and 2020, only 28.06, 29.02, and 30.20 percent of students respectively, obtained Grade C or better.
Teachers union displeased
Trade unions have come out with their guns blazing to accuse the government of being the root cause of this deterioration. The Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) says the results are far from pleasing and fears for the worst. Responding to this publication’s enquiry via email, the union’s Publicity Secretary, Oreeditse Nyatso, said: “Our members are concerned with the decline in results year in and year out. They are depressed because evaluation of results does not include them or their representatives, being the unions.”
Nyatso added that their worst fear is that the results will continue to decline because the examinations body does not show any commitment or interest in mitigating the poor performance of learners. Asked about the possible cause of these poor results, he answered that the first and notable cause is the assessment standards vis a vis curriculum.
Nyatso said failure is mostly common in subjects that have a coursework component. “Teacher workloads and class sizes do not allow the teacher enough time to attend to learners’ special needs and abilities,” he noted. “Slow learners are always left behind because of syllabus coverage and time constraints. Infrastructure in schools is appalling and laboratories are malfunctional.”
Nyatso said teachers’ welfare and conditions of service as another factor leading to poor results because the workforce is demoralised. Altogether he blamed teacher ratio, workload and the establishment register, promotions, transfer issues, court cases, scarce skills of teachers, senior teacher payment at primary schools, overtime renumeration, and discontinuation of in-service training as factors that have killed the morale of the teaching cadre over the years, hence the poor exam results.
Nyatso shared the same views with his counterpart from the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU). Reached for comment, BTU identified much the same concerns. The union’s president Gotlamang Oitsile said poor results emanate from a number of circumstances. “In our view, there are so many factors that include but are not limited to lack of support to educators, shortage of resources, lack of in-service training, lack of proper parenting, and shortage of accommodation for teachers, among others,” he said.
Like his colleague at BOSETU, Oitsile holds that longstanding teacher welfare issues have a huge role to play in the poor results. “The government must know that if attempts are made to improve conditions of service for teachers, this will trigger good performance and cooperation at schools and lead to desired results being realised,” he said. The BTU leader is of the view that the government should engage more with educators as a means of finding workable solutions to the collapsed education system.
For its part, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) says it is not at all pleased with the results. Veteran trade unionist and former BTU president Johannes Tshukudu observed that chief among several causes of the poor results is poor leadership in schools, lack or below average involvement of parents in their children’s academic work and a general lack of resources in schools. Low morale is also a factor, Tshukudu added. “You can’t expect productivity and good ethics in a teacher with low morale when welfare issues are not attended to by the employer,” he said.
He condemned the government for failing to implement the 1994 recommendations of the Kedikilwe Commission to-date. On issues of welfare, he said this has resulted in more litigation between teachers and the employer that could have been avoided by tackling pressing issues like promotions, in-service training, transfers, work load and shortage of accommodation. Be that as it may, the more the problem persists, the more tragedy of young people with a bleak future. But in the meantime, where do the failing students go? This is a critical question that remains unresolved.
BEC blames teachers
In the aftermath of the poor examination results, BEC has found reason to blame the educators. Speaking before the Public Accounts Committee in 2021, the CEO of BEC, Moreetsi Thobega, attributed poor JC results partly to unqualified teachers.
In essence, Thobega implied that educators at the basic education level are somewhat unskilled as the poor results cut across JC and BGCSE exams. This accusation did not sit well with trade unionists who felt the remarks were an insult to teachers. As if that was not enough, earlier this year BEC said students who fail to come to terms with the results will be offered counselling services.
Basic education gobbles up much money
The government has been investing billions of pula in the education sector but there seems to be no end in sight for the troubles besieging it. Trade unions and the government are always at loggerheads over what trade unions describe as disregard of teachers’ working conditions while the government holds that is improving working conditions of teachers.
According to available information, in 2017 basic education got the largest budget allocation of P6.80 billion, representing 17. 2 percent of the total budget. Furthermore, in 2018, the budget was P7.97 billion, 17.7 percent of the total budget. Figures show that in 2019, money allocated to basic education amounted to P8.24 billion or 17.5 percent of the entire budget while in 2020 it was P9.01 billion.
To emphasise that more funds are channelled to education, in 2022 the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Peggy Serame, allocated P9.87 billion to education, representing 18.5 percent of the total budget. This is the second largest budget after that of the Ministry of Health and Wellness.