We note with disappointment and utter dejection the remarks made by the Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE) Permanent Secretary, Ms Bridget John on National Television to the effect that:

1. “Parents who decide not to bring back their children to school are not guaranteed a
placement next year.”

Ms John should be reminded in case she has forgotten that, the world is battling with a
deadly and life threatening virus and governments are running against time to prevent and safe the lives of people, including the children. Unfortunately on the other side, the PS is busy threatening parents and bringing confusion to the already confused situation.

The Government has a duty to make it a point that every child has access to education, and
Ms John should not all of a sudden behave as if everything is normal where reckless decisions can be made by putting the lives of children a risk posed by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

At all costs, we should not leave anyone behind as we adjust to a “New Normal”, where
everyone devises ways of living with this deadly virus.

2. The Development of the Consent Form
This is one of the appalling developments coming from a senior officer in the education sector, telling parents that they should at their own volition consent their children to the
envisaged risk.

A risk posed by the deadly virus which has collapsed most of the health
systems of richest countries.
Education is a fundamental human right and essential as it promotes individual freedom and empowerment, and yields important development benefits. Therefore, parents should not be subjected to find themselves in a precarious situation where they are forced to choose whether their children should go to school or not.
3. “We have a lot of teachers who are NOT teaching like H.O.Ds and School Heads, we
will decide if the workload they have cannot allow them to assist.”

This is indeed a very unfortunate statement coming from a Permanent Secretary who should in the first instance know that every portfolio or position in the education system was createdfor a purpose. We cannot at this juncture condone the irrational and misleading thinking that all along the Government has been having positions or officers in schools that by implication have been doing nothing and should be given jobs or new roles.

However, at primary schools School Heads Deputy School Heads and Heads of Departments (HoD) have been teaching all these years, something that we are still fighting that it be stopped. Now PS John, who came into office in 2019, want to justify that this mistreatment of senior officers by telling them to abandon their managerial positions and be in the classroom something that diminish the status of these equally important officers in the education sector.

So School Heads, Deputy School Heads and Heads of Departments now should abandon
their positions and dance to the dictates of Ms Johns by starting to teach? What exactly is the Permanent Secretary trying to communicate to the nation? Is she not familiar with this simple
words; “Job Description?” Why can’t she hire the unemployed qualified graduate Teachers
who are roaming the streets instead of trying to play the blame game, and unnecessary
portfolio switching gimmicks as though people have been doing nothing?
4. “Teachers-student ratio in Botswana is Very Low.” This one is a laughable declaration by a whole PS and indeed embarrassing to say the
least. This is the very same PS who some weeks back brought the idea that Social Distancing in Schools will be difficult because of the large class sizes and even resorted to settling for reducing the class sizes to 25.
Now she is somersaulting and making misleading assertions that the teacher-student ratio is low. Is a ratio of 1:50 low for Ms John? Such utterances are detached from the realities of the contemporary classroom situation in Botswana. Maybe the PS should go back to the practicalities by first reading the Revised National Policy on Education [RNPE] of 1994.
In there, she will observe that a large Teacher-Students ratio was not a reality then and remains a naked reality even today. Our assumption has always been that the PS lives in Botswana and understands the painful realities of our education system, but apparently we were so wrong.

BTU and its constituents have always been very supportive to the Minister of Basic Education’s call for dialogue especially during these had times of COVID-19. However, the above statements by the PS are so demoralizing, demeaning and embarrassing.

We do not want radical and dictatorial
approaches to that which we have been trained for and know best; that is educating the nation. We are committed to our call and have sacrificed for years so that the nation can move forward,but Ms John’s assertions will soon trigger the wrong button which she might not be able to handle.

Let intellect and reason lead us during this COVID-19 difficult moment and NOT irrational and misplaced emotional venting. These are tough times which need leadership and NOT misplaced emotional displays of power!

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