Open University of Botswana, a lifelong learning institution :: Mmegi Online
As we aspire to become a more diverse knowledge-based economy, Botswana must provide several learning platforms through which citizens can continuously develop.
It is becoming increasingly clear that independent education can reveal weaknesses that one does not like to recognize and at the same time reveal personal strengths. Knowing them is essential for all those who demand more from life than mediocrity and poverty. Self-learning requires persistence, which is an essential factor in the process of transmuting desire into its equivalent of success. We have read several success stories of self-taught personalities who are now multimillionaires and self-actualized.
It is widely accepted that a knowledge-based economy should have more than enough of its highly skilled and versatile workforce. In fact, academics will argue that a minimum master’s degree is a prerequisite for a country to settle for a knowledge-based economy status. The qualification should be interdisciplinary so that it lays the foundation for basic knowledge in different fields and should have value beyond meeting the demands of a classroom. If such a qualification is achieved by a majority of citizens to such an extent that they acquire independent knowledge and skills, then we can proudly reflect our status as a knowledge-based economy.
The Open University of Botswana (BOU) takes the lead in ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities. This is in support of Sustainable Development Goal 4 as adopted in September 2015. BOU reaches the most remote places of this great nation. The system has been structured in such a way that all people have equal opportunities while having many opportunities to pursue education at all levels. The University has both secondary and tertiary sector. This allows everyone to learn continuously without having to relocate to other places that could provide conventional educational structures. The BOU system takes cognizance of people’s needs and values. The system values the uniqueness of people’s schedules in their lives, and self-directed learning is held in high regard.
The newly transformed university has come at the most opportune time, especially when the education sector is undergoing a massive transformation through the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP). A notable transformation is the advent of the Botswana Teaching Council (BOTECO). The board will certainly require some minimum professional development in a given cycle on the part of practicing teachers and teacher trainers. The teaching of licenses and progressions will most likely be subject to a personal commitment to self-professional development. BOU will certainly play a huge role in facilitating continuing professional development within the teaching profession. The fact that the university is digitizing most of its programs adds to the atmosphere of quality and accessible learning.
Finland, arguably a leading country in quality education in the world, had to transform most of its colleges into universities in the 1970s. The aim was to increase appropriate qualifications and improve quality control and consistent standards that can be easily achieved in an academic setting. Due to its decentralized system, apprenticeship in Finland has become so self-regulated that the pace is determined by an individual. The learning infrastructure is available in all corners of the country and quality teachers are available everywhere. I think the Open University of Botswana is going in the same direction. They try to promote a culture of continuous self-improvement in knowledge. Through such an initiative, the Batswana will develop their knowledge and skills, thus preparing for any future eventuality.
Access and equity are the foundation on which the BOU is founded. The guiding principle is that everyone should be able to educate themselves on all fronts. This opportunity must be accessible to everyone, regardless of their social, economic or geographic status. My appeal to fellow citizens is to encourage them to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity offered by BOU. Self-professional development not only strategically positions a person for future opportunities, but carries with them that sense of self-gratification. As a game changer that you are, I would like to thank the Open University of Botswana for taking on the challenge of providing guidance on our journey towards a knowledge-based economy.