Problems facing Schools in Third World

Problems facing schools in the Third World, and some specific to Letlhabile School, Phase 4, Gaborone, Botswana.

Foreward – Letlhabile is a typical African Middle Class School – it teaches in English Language, with Setswana, the local language, being one of the subjects taught.  Fees are currently US$ 700/term (Pula 4500), US$ 2100 per year, in a country – Botswana – where 23% are officially below the poverty line, and where many work for $50 – $100 per month (‘top range’ day-schools charge about 2-2.3 times those fee levels!).  The problems, challenges and opportunities facing Letlhabile are reasonably typical of many schools throughout Africa.  The main problem of course is financial and education-quality pressure on the State Schools – with world-bank-encouraged privatization, in many countries State Schools are now becoming unaffordable for the rural and for the urban masses.   African middle classes and elites are amazingly selfish, and like to pretend they live in a different universe from their lower-class brothers and sisters. 

Note that my comments below on the computerisation/ automation of learning appear elsewhere in my blog at

1. There is Insufficient communication school/teachers/parents – one meeting per year is quite insufficient

2. 95% of parents have internet (?), 100% of parents have mobile phone

3. Create a google or yahoo group for the school, school sends out one email and it gets to 800 parents – those without direct access to computer can get sms message and/or blackboard sign in school carpark informs when new message has been posted, and can access through internet caf�. Also can get printed sheet for 50 thebe from carpark.

4. Curriculum, list of books used, printed notes etc can be put on internet through the google group, which has provision for free posting of files and documents.  Test results can also be put here.  If parents don’t want children’s names listed with result, then they can use student ID numbers.

5. It seems that computers, smartphones, even dvd’s are regarded as a separate part of learning – they should be and must soon become an integral part of learning – each classroom should have a large screen for showing educational videos, and for use from a single teacher-controlled computer.  The time when students will use their own computer and/or smartphone in the classroom is getting very close – 2012/2013.

6. If Letlhabile is like every other private school in Africa, then the parents are being overcharged, the teachers are being underpaid, and the owners and managers are making obscene profits.  The school accounts should be publicly published (in both conventional and in intelligible/MIS fashion), which will hopefully lead to teacher pay rises and fee reductions.  As a rough guide, total teacher wage bill should be about 30% of total fee income.

7. There is a problem throughout Africa that school curriculum are modelled on UK, French or American (which themselves have little relevance to work and life in those countries), and therefore they have little relevance to work and life in Africa.  The curriculum is designed mainly towards the creation and continuation of an elite.  It is designed to fail the children of the non-elite and to output them with little or zero useful skills which will be useable outside the elite professions and jobs.  This is a general problem which needs to be addressed on a global scale.  But also it is possible to conduct this elite-oriented education while also instilling some more practical knowledge and skills.

8. Above all, it must be noted that these days the important thing it to teach students how to learn, since they may have to change careers and re-train several times during their working lives.  The business of rote learning is greatly reduced since the 1950’s, with calculators, computers, spell-checkers, internet, search engines, language translators etc..  This liberated time can be usefully deployed to teach students how to be intelligent.

9. Traffic control is very poor – it concentrates mainly on stopping cars from bumping each other, and pays little attention to the children.  The attitude of the security guys is poor, and the attitude of the drivers is atrocious

10. It must be accepted that some parents (about 50% it seems) are happy to put their children at risk through in-school-car-park traffic – ie they dump their children from the car and let the children risk life and limb getting to the safe area beyond other traffic.  Therefore the school must organise to counter and to reduce, minimize or even eliminate that risk.

a. A system of spot fines for badly behaved drivers
b. Rubber or plastic pipe batons for the controllers – they should be allowed and even encouraged to beat the cars of offenders
c. Put the intelligent security guys on the child crossing points, and TRAIN them how to regard children as their friends and cars as their enemies (!)
d. Create 2 or 3 child crossing points instead of the 1 at the moment
e. Do not bother to try to control multiple traffic lanes leaving the school – it is their own business if they bump each other – good riddance
f. Keep an eye particularly on combis (minibuses – commercial services to ferry children), and also on cars driven by young men (but many fancy cars driven by middle aged men and women are also misbehaving!)
g. Institute a 5km /hr or similar speed-limit inside the school car-park – and enforce it with spot fines and name-and-shame tactics.
h. Publish on the internet a list of number plates of offenders with number of offences

Alex Weir, Grandparent of 2 children (aged 5 and 11) at Letlhabile Primary School  tel +267 7138 15632
Thursday 28 July 2011

About alexweir1949

software developer, inventor and innovator, Fraud Proof Voting Systems Inventor, founder of Based in Botswana and Zimbabwe, work everywhere.
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