Botswana, a country known for its peace and stability in Africa is seen as the shining light to Africa. However, it still deals with socio-economic issues that many countries all over the world face today, including literacy and academic achievement. The Afrolutionist sat down with Lillian Nkosazana Moremi, Manager of Ducere Foundation for a light chat to understand how this organization is impacting the educational sector, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
One thing that people are not aware about is that Ducere is a philanthro-capitalist company. How did the firm establish itself here?
One of the key objectives of Botswana Investment & Trade Centre (BITC) is to go around the world looking for potential investors in driving Botswana’s economic growth. So Ducere founder Mr Matthew Jacobson from Australia is very passionate about education development in Africa. Through the encouragement of BITC, Ducere Foundation was formed in 2012 and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the foundation and Ministry of Education and Skills Development.
Now that Ducere Foundation nestled themselves here, how were you able to establish a single target to achieve in the education sector?
Based on an international study shared by Botswana Examiniations Council it was indicated that Botswana compared to other countries around the globe was not doing so well in Mathematics, Science and English in the Primary School Leaving Examination (Standard 7 Primary School) and in identifying that gap the foundation directed its efforts in that area of development especially in the disadvantaged communities.
The foundation’s work started in 2012 April – through an interesting mentorship model. We partnered with the Department of National Internship Programme and engaged interns as Ducere mentors in the schools that we are involved with. Interns are placed in classrooms to work alongside teachers. They are not trained teachers, instead graduates who need an opportunity to grow as young professionals. The interns who mostly majored in Maths, Science, English and IT were placed initially in 6 schools: two schools in South East Region being Ithuteng and Tshwaraganang Primary Schools, two in Kgalagadi Region being Kang and Mahutshane and lastly two in Chobe Region being Kasane and Pandamantenga Primary Schools.
Basically the mentors observes the learner as the teacher is teaching, going around the classroom to do one- on- one engagement with the learners as well as do group sessions. We also have iPads, which the mentors use in classrooms to show learners researched work on various topics as an enhancing learning tool- mind you these schools did not have internet before. I’m very excited because DUCERE has installed internet in these schools. And imagine us being able to Skype with learners in Kang Primary School – Its really heart warming. The plan is to see students being able to connect with other students not only locally but internationally which should also facilitate for cultural exchange.
What we have discovered along the journey is that the three subjects are not an issue, the big problem is literacy development. The schools we are working into we have realised that most learners cannot read or understand what they are reading most of the time. Then this makes us think how do we expect the learners to write PSLE’s when they do not understand what the questions require of them? Therefore, we have heightened our efforts on the literacy aspect. In addition to our programmes which include debating, read out loud, advocacy to mention but a few, what we have also done, very cool in my opinion, is letting them write stories. These stories are folk tales from their elders, so the child listens to the story – listening skills – comes back, recites to his or her class, writes the story, submits it, the story is edited then published. So far we have seven collections of stories written by students from Mahusane, Kang, Kasane, Pandamatenga, Ithuteng and Tshwaragano Primary Schools being distributed for free to schools in Botswana and other African countries such as Zambia. These stories will also be enjoyed by future generations as well. It is indeed encouraging to other students as they realise what their peers have done and definitely feels good to read local content.
Where are the published stories available?
They are available in the 6 schools that we started with, and I am happy to share that our expansion program has enabled us to distribute books around other schools in Botswana, share our ideas and keep in contact with these schools on a weekly basis. Next year we shall continue distributing the African Children Stories across the country and sharing our program in the process ensuring that we build impact and sustainability.
As a charitable organisation we need to ensure we have enough funds to run programmes and hence we also sell the books online to raise more funds to enable us to print more copies to keep distributing to schools for free. Anyone who is willing and able to support our initiative can go on amazon and buy the books for $2.99 (approximately P21.00).
Looking at the impact of the children, how are their grades doing?
The impact is very much there, because first of all, kids find it encouraging to work with a younger person. We have produced great results in our schools, were our learners have improved and of course at times results not showing as we are also faced by challenges where in communities parents are hardly coming to the table ensuring they actively participate in their children’s education as they are worried about their own challenges, unemployment being at the top of the list.
Have you expanded since April of 2012?
During this year we expanded to two other schools in addition to the six. The expansion program includes weekly visits to the schools, to engage learners on one-on-one, group subjects discussions, debating and reading.
Lets look into the parent child relationship, does Ducere have an impact in ensure that a relationship is nurtured?
This one is tricky because everywhere especially with government schools, every single day is a battle for us, particularly of parents in rural areas, because they deal with socio-economic challenges such as unemployment. But what we have done is having our mentors going from door to door, for example, in Pandamatenga, Ducere got the mentor a bicycle who then went around engaging with parents face to face, talking to parents about the importance of education and their impact as actively involved parents. Some parents listen and some do not, but we ensure that there is a platform for engagement, and continue to motivate parents as it is their children whom will help get out of poverty.
Everyone is an important stakeholder to education…
Absolutely! Everybody! I believe that for development to take place, everyone is a stakeholder. For example, you would find a student who wouldn’t pitch for school because they are at the shebeen, instead those at the shebeen should not tolerate this kind of behaviour…or even farm owners who let parents bring their children to work at the farms instead of being at school. So really its’ the responsibility of every citizen and resident of the country to make sure we are actively involved in encouraging children to take education seriously.
It also falls back on the fundamentals of Tswana culture that it takes a village to raise a child…
I feel that we are slowly but surely losing out on that fundamental. As much as technology is taking over and the world is advancing quickly, as Batswana we need to not forget where we are coming from and should continue to with the teachings passed down to us by our forefathers. And you’re absolutely right, it takes a village to raise a child.
How can people reach you for more information?
For more information anyone can visit www.ducerefoundation.org or call our office on +267 3656105