Batswana Youth On "Education" - Mmathapelo Marumo

Interview conducted by Ms. Nozizwe Ntesang, hearing the views of young Batswana on Education in their country (Botswana).

My name is Mmathapelo Marumo. I am a young woman who just recently turned 19. I’m a media studies student at the University of Botswana, and I will be starting my second year this coming August. I’m also currently freelancing at the local newspaper, Sunday Standard.

How would you describe the education system in Botswana?

At the moment, I would say the education system is slightly above average at best. It seems as though most schools, particularly government schools, only ever do as much is necessary. For example (and I can only speak for myself and the people I went to high school with) at my high school, we focused way too much on European and American history. When it came to Setswana and Bantu cultural history, and African history in general, we barely scratched the surface. As a result, I finished high school with an inadequate amount of knowledge on my own people’s history. Also, I wasn’t exposed to many government school kids back then (mostly because of the “anti-rich kid” mentality that other students had towards you when they found out you went to a school like the one I went to), but when I got to university I was able to expand my social circle a little bit. I found that most of the students can barely construct coherent sentences in English. That’s a huge problem. English is a national language, so teaching school children English is just as important as teaching them Setswana. What happens when they come to university and they choose to study a course in the humanities faculty? Languages are a big part of many humanities courses. And I see many government school children struggling with Basic English courses because of the lack of care taken towards the language in high school. Now, my next point is going to get a bit personal, but I think it is important nonetheless. The education system in Botswana focuses far too much on arithmetic and science related subjects. I, personally, am a creative thinker, not a logical thinker. But there aren’t many opportunities for people like me. Partly because the older generation seems to think being a lawyer, doctor or engineer are the only careers you can pursue successfully, and also because schools don’t focus enough on creative subjects. I struggled all throughout primary and high school with all the math and science subjects, and I had no alternative choices because schools don’t offer creative subjects. I understand the importance of teaching basic math and science to all students, but I’ve always felt that the same needs to be done with self-expressive subjects. Art, music and drama related subjects need to be incorporated into the syllabi in schools, so students like me, who felt like they had no future because they couldn’t remember the structure of a plant, can still hold onto hope with the creative subjects. That also brings into play the need to create more career opportunities in these fields, but that’s another topic for another discussion.

As a young person, how has the aforementioned system benefited you? And if not, please elaborate.

I suppose because I grew up in an upper middle class family, my parents could afford to put me through some of the best schools in the country (my family moved around quite a lot when I was younger, so I’ve actually attended 3 different primary schools). I went to private schools that worked with systems that function slightly better than government schools, so I was better off than others. However, the only reason I have access to further education (in the sense that I can go home and do my own research on a topic) is because my family is set in terms of our financial situation. I own 2 smartphones and a laptop, we have 3 TVs and access to DSTV, we have a study full of books and encyclopedias, and we have 2 shared computers at home and a decent Wi-Fi connection. I have access knowledge and information outside of what is taught to me at school. So I have always been able to do my own research on any and everything. Someone who goes to a government school but still has access to the same luxuries as me, can also more or less help themselves with furthering their knowledge in a way that the school system can’t. A person who grew up in a less financially well off family and went to a poor government school is not as lucky as me. In a nutshell, the system has benefited me, but my parents’ money benefited me even more.

If any improvements are needed, what are they & how do you suggest the youth can implement them?

As much as the responsibility lies in us as the youth to make a change, we’re also going to need help from the older generations. We need to speak out and voice our opinions, and still ensure that our words aren’t falling on deaf ears. We need to get other members of the youth involved, get our parents on board, and bring these matters forth to our Minister of Education and Skills Development. Of course, before all this can happen, we, the youth, need to begin actually discussing amongst ourselves. No progress can begin until everyone gets talking.

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of IGNITE THE YOUTH are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the entire society of IGNITE THE YOUTH.