We wish our teaching professionals a worthy Teacher’s Day as they reflect on the new demands imposed by COVID-19.

We wish our teaching professionals a worthy Teacher’s Day as they reflect on the new demands imposed by COVID-19.

Botswana Teachers commemorate Teachers Day every Friday of the first week of June. This year Friday 5th June 2020 will be celebrated under the dark cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed by President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s State of Public Emergency. For the first time since its inception in 1996, the commemorations will not be celebrated publicly. We nonetheless pay tribute to and celebrate the teaching professionals whose contribution to the socio-economic development of Botswana remains the anchor and bedrock of the progress and well-being of nation. This contribution is aptly captured by the 2020 theme: “The Teacher, Key to Education, Health and Prosperity In the New Normal”.

The theme which encapsulates the new social reality brought by COVID-19, indicates the pressing reality of a New Normal that demands a paradigm/mindset shift if Botswana is to meet the new challenges in the lives of its citizens.

Taking into account the New Normal, it is important that teachers use this Teacher’s Day to re-imagine and re- configure a new way of fulfilling the needs of learners, of the economy and of society. This day should inspire teachers to reflect on the changes that the education sector governance structures should effect in order to meet the emerging landscape of needs and challenges.

It is important to note that even as we honour teachers on this day, they have little to celebrate. They face unacceptably high teacher-student ratios ( of around 1:50); lack of teaching and learning resources in classrooms; poor progression and advancement opportunities; absence of a coherent training policy; substandard residential accommodation, among others. With the COVID-19 landscape, teachers face the burden of a double shift system which unfairly does not attract a shift allowance. This is despite a clear policy position of the Revised National Policy on Education that states that there be a special package of incentives for teachers because of the peculiarity of their work. Unless policy makers address this unjust work condition, low morale among teachers since has the potential to compromise the classroom experiences of and outcomes for learners.

In its approach to education, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) 2019 manifesto has a clear road map for the teaching profession. It identified, among other priorities: Restoring the Dignity of Teachers;

Introducing a teaching council to advocate for and support the growth and development of the teaching profession and educators;

Introducing incentives for teachers in remote areas and offering boarding facilities as a way of attracting them to teach in such conditions and for retention purposes; Improving the conditions of service of teachers and give teaching the recognition and prestige it deserves as the cradle for the country’s future.

These offerings among many in the UDC manifesto were crafted with the objective of meeting some of the most urgent needs of the teaching professionals and would have without doubt given teachers a reason to celebrate their achievements and contribution in the socio economic development of Botswana.

We wish our teaching professionals a worthy Teacher’s Day as they reflect on the new demands imposed by COVID-19.

On bended knee, we take our hats off to our unsung heroes and heroines – Teachers!

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