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Reading and Books are Not So Important

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At least that seems to be what the Ministry of Education is telling us. Books? Who needs them! If that’s not the case, then why has the Ministry of Education (MOE) ceased all buying of books- for primary, junior secondary, and senior secondary -from October until further notice?

The MOE says they’re doing a country-wide audit of books in the schools, but how long does that take? Surely not more than a few weeks -at most.

This is the time when schools should be buying books for the students who will be arriving for the new school year in January, but not this year.

This year when the new students arrive the storerooms will be empty.

Let me say straight away, I have written books that are bought by the MOE and you might think my complaint stems from my own personal interest.

It doesn’t. This issue is much bigger than me. This is about the future of the country and what we’re hoping it looks like.

Do we want an educated, employable populace able to be lifelong learners- or do we want people able to regurgitate facts?

Being able to read text, extract information, and process that information are foundational skills for an educated person.

Without books, how is a child able to do that?

From friends in the teaching profession, I’ve learned that the government stopped buying books properly ever since the new syllabus was instituted for junior secondary.

Many schools are still using books for the old syllabus despite the fact that students are writing JC exams on the new syllabus.

If a school is lucky to have the new books, they might only have twenty or so making it impossible to use them properly.

That’s what teachers in the classrooms have told me.

Besides students having no books to read and learn from, to make an already bad situation worse, the complete ban on the buying of books could put an end to our indigenous publishing companies.

Which business could survive four months of no cash flow and with no end to the situation in sight?

Only the multinational publishing companies will be able to survive.

They are the only ones who can accept such harsh conditions since they are earning money elsewhere.

Books in Botswana are already too expensive; imagine what will happen when only one or two publishers survive.

Why can’t the government use the millions from the alcohol levy to buy books if there is no money?

A quite rational argument can be made that lack of books and poor education, leading to unemployment is a contributing factor to alcoholism.

We were once, long ago when we were all hopeful and happy, told the story that D stood for delivery. What happened to that?
Why do we have people in positions of power who are still not delivering?

How can schools work without books? Imagine trying to teach English or Setswana under those circumstances.

I would not be surprised to hear that teachers photocopy books. It’s illegal, but what option do they have?

If I was them I’d do it. Another teacher told me, in desperation, she asked her students to go and buy the books and she was reprimanded.

Teachers are working under already harsh conditions, why is the Ministry making it worse? It feels nearly punitive.

Then we wonder why our children go off to university unable to read critically, unable to write grammatically, unable to extract information from a text- unable to do nearly anything that they need to learn from the books that don’t exist in their classrooms.

Yet the government folks sit in their offices drawing up plans for their various “hubs”, I wonder who will work in those high-tech hubs, who will run them?

These young people denied the proper education that is their right?

The Ministry of Education is failing. Who will step up and speak the truth?

And more importantly- who will fix it? Lives are at stake; this is not a minor game of no consequence.

It’s time someone got serious.