Allow me to pick a few words from the recent address to the nation by His Excellency the President, ‘I have noted with keen interest the production of some COVID~19 equipment by both locally-based institutions and individuals to meet the needs of our people. Our research institutions are engaged in research to find a cure for the COVID~19 basing on indigenous knowledge systems and plants. These are indeed commendable initiatives by our own people’. The President was appreciating the many efforts by the University of Botswana, Botswana International University of Science and Technology, and many individual Batswana who are working towards fighting the coronavirus using local skills, knowledge and resources.
Botswana basic education sector is about to implement a multiple pathways system. This typically refers to the various courses, programs and learning opportunities offered by schools, community organisations or local businesses that allow students to earn academic credits and satisfy graduation requirements (edglossary.org). In addition to learning of facts in various syllabi, which is a predominant factor in our current system, we will be introducing Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes. Our educational system has not been putting great emphasis on skill-based learning for quite some time. Skill-based knowledge was to a great extent regarded as naturally acquired effort, hence it did not find favour in our education mainstream system.
Multiple Pathways offered under a pedagogical scope known as Outcome Based Education, will sufficiently drive us to constructivism learning. It is about learners constructing meaning by interpreting information in the context of their own experience, not the retrieval of factual information alone. After all, it is the interpretation of information and situations that will accord one better adaptation gambles in life. Constructivism learning is about questioning, exploring and reflecting. In a classroom situation, it can be applied through team working and collaboration, promoting discussions and debates, setting up study groups for peer learning and most importantly training students in the process and criteria.
Scheduled to begin in 2021, Multiple Pathways will be piloted under two main programmes in phase one. Tourism and Agriculture are the set out priorities in this phase. The COVID~19 aftermaths are demanding a speedy action towards producing enough food locally for ourselves. They say that ‘desperation is the mother of all invention’. This statement describes the dire need for our situation occasioned by the deadly coronavirus. We need our local farmers to produce more. The country desperately needs to be self-sufficient in food production. What better way of developing interest for young Batswana in this food producing industry than to catch them young at secondary school. More than anything, it is the practical aspect of the Agriculture pathway which will add value. As for Tourism and Hospitality, it goes without saying that the sector is one big contributor to the national GDP. The industry employs a good number of Batswana. Great opportunities still remain unexplored within the industry. It is on such basis that young Batswana ought to be empowered with hospitality and tourism skills so that they can easily seize opportunities in this industry. The basic education sector has therefore responded towards this calling by introducing these programmes in the curriculum.
COVID~19 has really exposed our limited locally produced food production. It has further buttressed the importance for skilful labour. Most importantly, the disease has exposed our limited efforts towards research generally. Our indigenous knowledge and resources (plants), are not fully explored for medicine purposes. I am of a strong believe that our natural resources are capable of providing medicine for a variety of diseases if intensive investigations can be done. All these revelations occasioned more especially by COVID~19, are a clear indication that the education sector ought to respond through upgrading the curriculum. TVET programmes ought to be added to the curriculum, including those industries that are signalling prospects for creating employment for the youth such as ‘performing art and sports’. Inculcation of soft skills must also be part of the new curriculum for they prepare learners with future adaptation skills, working with others, self-regulation and effective communication. This is what Multiple Pathways system aims for, and it is what Multiple Pathways system will achieve.