Natural resources are a terrible thing to waste; that’s why a bunch of big-wigs came to Gaborone last week to talk about sustainable development in Africa.
And when I say big, I mean seriously big. There were leaders from several African countries as well as executives from the UN, the World Bank, the Gates Foundation and many other NGOs and multinational corporations. There was even someone there from Wal-Mart.
What they came up with is a document called the Gaborone Convention, which is supposed to be used as a roadmap for: including natural resources in national and corporate planning, building social capital and reducing poverty by moving agriculture and other industries towards practices that promote sustainable employment and conservation and building knowledge, capacity and policy networks to promote leadership and increase momentum for change.
I summarised that last bit from the circular that comes out of the president’s office each week and it sounds like a mighty fine return on two days work, although I must admit I haven’t read the actual GC document yet.
I also don’t know how much we spent on hosting the prestigious event, but I don’t really want to go on too much about what I haven’t done and don’t know. What I do know is what I think about natural resources and what any nation should try to do to develop its most important one.
For me, that is its children, so I would really like to see less money being forked out on high level workshops and more being spent on the quality of education we provide for our kids – and I don’t just mean our own kids, I mean all the children of Botswana – and I even have a couple of suggestions on where the money should, and shouldn’t, go.
Where it shouldn’t go is into the pockets of deadwood teachers who are just putting in time and don’t really have the best interests of the students at heart. Kids learn a lot of things other than the course material from their teachers and I just think it is wrong to allow lazy selfish people to stand in front of a class as examples of what responsible adults should be.
How do we sort that out? Well, first of all we need to make the teaching profession an attractive career option for our top graduates by increasing the pay and benefits dramatically. We also would need to improve the working conditions by hiring a whole lot more teachers to get the average classroom size down to between 20 and 25 students, which quite happily is the one thing that would most greatly improve the learning experience for the kids. And finally we would have to adjust teacher contracts so that it would be a fairly simple matter to fire anyone who wasn’t pulling his or her weight, but that wouldn’t be impossible if it were done at the same time the rewards were being increased.
Please don’t get me wrong here; I’m not saying the Summit for Sustainability in Africa was a waste of time or that no one will bother to read the Gaborone Convention. I’m just saying if we get our priorities right and provide the best education possible for the kids who want to take advantage of it, then a lot of our other development worries will stand a far better chance of getting sorted out.