Government takeover

There were people in central government, particularly the Ministry of Education, who were unfriendly to the idea of a parallel educational model being promoted and implemented outside of government. A Brigades Coordinating Committee existed and liaised with government, but the Brigades had found their own funding and were run by people who were not civil servants, and not under ministry control. Maun NYTC’s governance was clear since it was controlled by the North-West District Council, but the other Brigades had a variety of legal identities.

Thus there was a background at this time of the government wanting to take over the Brigades and establish control over this collection of disparate bodies. They did not fit government ways of working - straddling education, industry, local government and rural development. The Brigades had brought new funding into the country, which was valuable for a poor country, but Botswana was becoming richer every day and knew that it did not have to look for extra funds to manage these ideas.

What did I learn from the coalface?

The idea of linking production to vocational training, and having the former pay for a substantial portion of the latter, is a very powerful idea that can and should be tried in many different contexts. Many countries persist with expensive, government-subsidised trade training centres whose production is discarded as a by-product of the training process rather than used to either make money or link the training to realistic markets. After Botswana I think the idea has lost its adherents, which is a great pity.

The idea of developing a curriculum for secondary-level educational institutions called “Development Studies” and using it to prepare young people to think about the political and economic possibilities of their country is a very useful part of civic education and should be further encouraged. It requires an approach that is populist, not one that is exclusive.

It is very important to work with whatever democratic channels exist in any particular place to get local people onboard with an idea that may initially have only a few promoters. They are likely to suggest ideas that you had not thought of — like the introductions to remote villages through the Chief’s uncle.

It is valuable to consider the situation of the people who are not going to be helped by the idea you are promoting. In this case, general career education for young people would have been a helpful complement to a particular educational track being proposed.

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