Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Jul 1 16:14:06 UTC 2008


The Background To Educational Reform In Botswana

At independence in 1966 Botswana was a nation large in area and small
in population, with only 450,000 people. It was ranked one of the
poorest countries in the world. There was only one urban centre,
Francistown. There were 251 primary schools with 72,000 pupils and
1,673 teachers. Nearly half these teachers were untrained and
therefore unqualified. The number of students continuing to secondary
school was 1,531, less than the size of one senior school in Botswana
today. Only a handful of citizens had graduated from university and
there was a severe shortage of high-level human resources to run and
develop the country.

The developmental priorities were many, but the key one under the
leadership of President Seretse Khama was the establishment of a
unified national system of education and to begin the process of
transformation. To serve this fundamental objective, it was deemed
that a two language policy-Setswana and English-was essential to
achieve national unity and that the schools were the foundation block
of nation building. Integrated national development plans commenced
and education was central to both the strategy and philosophy of
development and ranked high in budgetary allocations.

In the early 1970s, general dissatisfaction accumulated concerning the
education system and how it was performing. In 1975, a National
Commission on Education (NCE) was created and its report became the
basis of the National Policy on Education that was adopted in August

The first NCE had an unusual composition. Torsten Husen, a prominent
Swedish educator became the Chair. He was joined by: James Sheffield
from Teachers College Columbia University; Peter Williams of the
Institute of Education, London University; Aklilu Habte a Minister
from Ethiopia; Noah Setidisho who was Rector of the University College
of Botswana; and a Member of Parliament, B.C. Thema. There were only
two Batswana on the first NCE, but the team co-opted many others and
created two task forces for primary and secondary and required the
submission of applied research reports. Pre-primary and tertiary
education (except for teacher training) were left out of their
deliberations. The NCE took 15 months and produced a report with 156
recommendations. It is known as "Education for Kagisano" and is still
available at the Government Printer. It became part of National
Development Plan (NDP) Five and the "corner stone" of NDP6

Education for Kagisano's vision was for universal junior secondary
education, but it was seen as a distant goal. They felt this could be
eventually achieved through community-based day high schools. What is
usually forgotten and no longer recognised is that in 1979, the
National Commission on Education was re-convened. The new report made
nine more recommendations, including the transitional seven years
primary schooling, two years junior education followed by three years
of senior secondary schooling (or the 7-2-3 educational pyramid).

To develop the human resources to staff the rapidly expanding
community junior secondary schools Molepolole College of Education was
established and an additional college of education opened at Tonota.
Two major projects were launched, linked to USAID assistance. The
Primary Education Improvement Project (PEIP, 1981-1991) and the Junior
Secondary Education Improvement Project (JSEIP, 1984-1991).  PEIP
worked to develop teacher training, while JSEIP focused on curriculum
development and implementation. The projects had a major impact on the
University of Botswana in buildings, pre-service and in-service
education and graduate studies. Other major projects were to improve
administrative capacity within the Ministry of Education and to
promote in-service education through a network of education centres in
the districts. The Department of Curriculum and Evaluation opened in
1978. Education for Kagisano called for a system of national service,
a recommendation that led to the creation of Tirelo Setshaba. The
commission's main thrust was to develop equality in educational
opportunity, irregardless of gender, ethnic identity, religious
membership or location in the country.

Key failures in implementation of recommendations in the years after
the final report in 1979 are: the Ministry of Education's not
achieving decentralisation to the 12 districts; the failure to
establish a career ladder for teachers; and to achieve equity and
universal schooling for all (a study in 1989 found that 17 percent of
the children were missing from primary schools).
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