1. It is always a pleasure for me to celebrate the success of the young people of Botswana because they hold the future of this country. I am therefore delighted to join you this morning as we celebrate and honour the 2019 Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) top achievers.
2. It has become a norm for us to assemble annually in recognition of outstanding young people who have excelled in their BGCSE final examinations. This student award programme gives us an opportunity to recognise outstanding performance and the accomplishments of our learners and in turn, inspires the award recipients and motivates other young people to aim high.
3. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I note that in observance of the Health Protocols associated with COVID – 19, only the top three out of thirty-six best achievers are physically attending this year’s awards. I am informed that a special arrangement will be made for those top achievers who are not in attendance at this ceremony.
4. COVID-19 has caused unprecedented disruption to our lives. The positive COVID-19 cases in schools, affecting both learners and teachers are of particular concern for our country. I am, however, gratified to note that, to date, all Government schools throughout the country are fully observing the COVID-19 health protocols. In this regard, schools have mounted hand wash basins, and are providing soaps, toilet papers, sanitizers, disposal bins and water tanks to minimize the spread and transmission of the coronavirus in schools.
5. Other measures which Government has undertaken to support our learners and teachers during this challenging time, include, the reduction of the number of students in class sizes to a maximum of 30 learners, the introduction of shifts in schools, the engagement of over Three Thousand (3000) temporary teachers to accommodate the increase in the number of classes, as well as, the employment of Safety Health and Environment (SHE) officers to all schools to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols
6. I want to assure you that, we will continue to work at every opportunity available to protect our students, teachers and schools from this pandemic
7. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to reiterate our commitment to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in ways that make connections between schools, communities, work and the global enterprise to enable our students to compete in the global economy. We shall as Government continue to provide opportunities for our young people to enrol in science, technology and engineering programmes.
8. In this context, Government is undertaking reforms that will shift our education system to an outcome-based approach, and, in this regard, promote quality education, as espoused in our National Vision 2036. The approach promotes a skills-based curriculum which will provide learners with the requisite skills and capacities necessary for a knowledge-based economy that Government is vigorously pursuing.
9. I am informed that thirty-eight (38) subjects have been reviewed and the new approach will be introduced to senior secondary schools during the course of 2021. So far, Maun Senior Secondary School and Moeng College will be piloted for Tourism and Hospitality, as well as, Horticulture, Crop and Animal Production, respectively. The approach will be rolled out to other senior secondary schools in incremental stages.
10. I believe that this education approach, which we also promised as one of our deliverables during the election season last year, will significantly contribute to the development of entrepreneurial skills of our young people and enhance their employability, thus, driving our National Transformational Agenda.
11. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, at this juncture, allow me to take this opportunity to recognise the three top achievers, namely, Ms. Tsholofelo Sebetso, Ms. Danish Galebotse and Mr. Shammah Phenyo Bernard, two of whom have already been awarded their prizes this morning. I am particularly delighted to present the most prestigious Golden Star Award to the Best Overall Performer in the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE), Mr. Shammah Phenyo Bernard of Naledi Senior Secondary School who obtained 8A*, 1A and 2B’s, having written 11 subjects. Shammah, congratulations to you and to all our 2019 best achievers!
12. Your success in passing the challenging BGCSE examinations is a reflection of your discipline and commitment to your study. You are exemplary to many of our young people and you make this nation proud. I encourage you and your peers to leverage on the partnerships that we continue to form with global leaders and international high-tech companies to assist us in our commitment to achieve the 4th Industrial Revolution and drive our Digital Transformation Agenda.
13. To the teachers who wake up every morning with enthusiasm and determination to guide and impart knowledge to learners, your hard work and patience with this young and alert generation is truly commendable. I also want to pay tribute to parents, guardians, the Parent-Teacher Associations, the private sector and other stakeholders who continue to contribute to the exceptional performance of our students across Botswana.
14. In conclusion, I am fully aware that the examinations of this year are taking place under challenging conditions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. I particularly encourage students, especially those taking their examinations this year to focus their ‘eye on the ball’, and, direct attention to their study in order to succeed.
15. I urge all of you to continue adhering to the COVID-19 health protocols by appropriately wearing your face masks in public, social distancing and washing or sanitizing your hands frequently.
I thank you for your attention.