Botswana commits to spreading ICT in schools

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

According to an article published recently, President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia Republic has stressed the importance of ICT to national development and said it is one of his priorities.

In a message sent to the official commissioning event of multimillion dollar mobile phone and laptop assembly plant, Jammeh said no nation in the current age can record meaningful development without opening its arms to ICT. This statement is true for Gambia as it remains true of all African countries, Botswana included. 

The government of Botswana has given to upping the ICT uptake in the country and 2015 is the year that companies and government departments have set for the improvement of the ICT landscape in the country. Botswana has been lucky in that Diamond mining has fuelled much of the country’s expansion and currently accounts for more than one third of the GDP and for 70% to 80% of export earnings. Tourism, financial services, subsistence farming, and cattle rising are other key sectors.

Botswana’s ICT infrastructure is very good, but is not fully utilised. Internet usage, for example, stands as low as 10% of the population. There is also considerable disparity in terms of urban and rural access to ICT services.

However, many government representatives have cited a few glitches to attaining immediate success in ICT. Their cited challenges include the relatively high cost of PCs, the lack of electricity in many rural locations, and high charges for Internet usage. In addition, the Internet needs to be made more relevant to the Batswana, through the development of local on-line content tailored to the needs of the population.

Botswana is  small and dynamic with visionary leadership particularly in the sector of ICTs in education. Not only does it boast a liberal telecoms policy, its education and national ICT policies (called Maitlamo) are linked to a broader economic vision for the country. In practice, Botswana arguably boasts among the highest PC penetration in education institutions in Africa. As well, all junior and senior secondary schools and government tertiary institutions have PC addition to all these advantages that the country is getting, the government has committed financial resources to improve connectivity and to promote the educational use of ICTs.

In Botswana, ICT is still widely exploited by businesses and Batswana in general although it is used extensively in the retail and mining sectors within foreign-owned companies. Botswana’s ICT sector itself is small and generally focused on local market opportunities.

However, Botswana ranks better out of many countries in Africa on the World Economic Forum’s network readiness index, ahead of countries like Namibia, Uganda, Mali, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

The government has invested substantially on education which accounts for more than a fifth of the government budget.

It has also expanded both infrastructure and services to guarantee every child of school going age, 10 years of basic education, this include curriculum reviewed in line with the philosophy Strengthening ICT component by introducing computer education at all levels,  set up computer labs in all secondary schools, refurbishment of computers for distribution to primary schools as well as making sure that all secondary schools to be connected to broadband and increased access to ICT services at community level (Kitsong centres, libraries, post offices,)

As for the recognition of school-based assessment in terms of infrastructure developments, the majority of primary schools are not ready; they do not have suitable rooms with enough power sockets and network points some schools are not connected to Electricity connectivity is also a challenge as some of the schools are in very remote areas.

 Another challenge is limited provision of ICT resources and lack of adequate training and exposure to the ICT environment for teachers, school leadership and management content beyond the competencies they acquired from the short in-service courses, limited time allocation for the teaching of the computer awareness programme, computer awareness programme is not examinable as well as underutilisation of computers for teaching and learning process (integration).

Added to that, digital literacy is not yet understood as fundamental to the teaching learning process by all education professionals. Adopted learner centred approach mainly in theory but not in practice.

The ministry aims to facilitate effective ICT curriculum implementation and assessment there is need for. As a stop gap measure, the government has resolved to strengthen policy environments and also strengthen teacher training in new pedagogies linked to the use of ICTs as tool readily available, provide relevant and up-to-date learning and support materials such as software and textbooks and the provision of resources and equipment at school level for improved monitoring and support.

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