Government has finally presented to parliament the much-awaited Bill calling for the establishment of Botswana Teachers Professional Council (BTPC). While all speakers concede that such a body is needed, the Bill has however been a subject of debate for a long time.
At times the Union stopped government from tabling it because teaching fraternity had concerns with is framing. In fact the idea of a teaching council came through Botswana Teachers Union about two decades ago, but did not see the light of day among the powers that be. This is despite that the council stands to assist in the effectiveness of a teacher, which requires motivation, discipline, patience, articulation, responsibility, and innovation. It also depends on continuous professional development. The teaching profession has been characterised by lack of educational standards for entry and acceptable standards of professional competence as well as lack of an agreed code of conduct resulting in declining academic performance in basic education. The decision by the ministry is seen as a way of improving teaching standards and work ethics, which are central themes as stated in both the 1994 Revised National Policy on Education and the 1977 Education for Kagisano.
In 2015, the then Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) was forced to defer the tabling of the Bill during the July parliament session following objections by Trade Unions. The ministry had to wait for unions to submit their concerns and queries first. MoESD followed that by holding a consultative meeting in which unions and, or stakeholders presented their input on the bill to government. Among the issues the unions raised were reservations on some of the key issues including the definition of the word ‘lecturers’ in the teaching situation. Unions requested for more time to engage with other stakeholders and to form an independent board that will be able to make decisions that will not prejudice its members and that in their view the minister had powers to appoint the council board.
Talking to Botswna Guardian on condition of anonymity this week, an elated education expert said the formation of Botswana Professional Teaching Council has been on the ministry’s agenda for a very long time. Progress since the idea was mooted has been painfully slow. It would appear the issue gathered momentum following the release of the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP). “I don’t think there is anything new as for reasons necessitating the establishment of the Teaching Council. The reasons are to establish a body that regulates profession and registers and licences teachers and ensures adherence to a set code of conduct among other things,” said the disinterested observer. It is hoped the body will instil the highest standard of professionalism, clean up the teaching profession by way of eliminating elements that may not have the right work ethics.
“In my view the council heralds a new dawn in the teaching profession. The council comes against the background of declining academic achievement levels and the need to restore excellence in our public schools... “It might have come at the right time to galvanise teachers to prioritise teaching and learning while taking appropriate action against deadwoods while taking measures to ensure the professional development of underachievers and weeding out those who are beyond redemption.” Due to the escalating rate of unemployment the teaching profession over time attracted job seekers who did not have the heart and passion for teaching and this unfortunate development could have contributed to a culture of underachievement that the ministry faces and registration could eliminate people who do not deserve a place in the profession, said the observer.
When presenting the Bill the Minister of Basic Education, Bagalatia Arone said the object of the Bill is to provide for the regulation of the teaching profession, for the establishment of the Council, enrolment and regulation of the teaching profession at pre-primary, primary and secondary levels in Botswana. He said a number of people are employed to teach whilst they do not have teaching qualifications or work ethics necessary to achieve effective teaching and learning. These compromise the quality of teaching and learning in Botswana. Supporting the Bill, Vice President and Leader of the House, Slumber Tsogwane said the teaching profession should not be seen to be remaining behind other professions.
“It is unfortunate, I am just rising to show concern because we discuss these Bills at the General Assembly and we expect Members of Parliament to attend so that things can be clarified, elaborated and if we have questions, we can raise them there. It seems some Members of Parliament are interested in debating the Bills here, yet they do not want to engage and interrogate them further at the General Assembly. This is a very unfortunate situation because the General Assembly is meant to help us to develop more ideas and more understanding of the Bills that we pass here, instead of coming here and presenting a totally different picture or thinking away from the Bill itself.
“So, we need to attend the General Assembly as MPs so that we can interrogate and engage our Ministers more meaningfully than to come here and seek clarifications, points of order, this and that. I am pleading with you so that we can have a better understanding of some of the laws that we pass here. This is a very good Bill Minister. Your Assistant Minister did a sterling job at the General Assembly. We really appreciate that this is long overdue. We need to have professionals and people we can trust with our students”. MP for Nkange, Edwin Batshu said teachers should be appreciated as pillars of education, and the implementation of Public Service Act brought many challenging issues around the teaching profession, such as hours of work which treated teachers the same way as with other public servants.
MP for Serowe South, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, said that there was need to have regulating body for all professions. She welcomed the Bill describing it as progressive for the teaching profession. “With this Bill, teachers will be identified and also be restricted to follow rules and regulations as per the council.” She also said the regulating body would also provide for qualified and professional local teachers. She said there are many foreign teachers, some of them expelled and their licenses revoked by the regulatory bodies in their countries. “It is necessary that this Bill provides for registration of teachers and for the establishment of the disciplinary committee and other inquiries,” she said.