Friday, 15 July 2011


I’m a big believer in education. Not necessarily in the traditional sense, not necessarily in classrooms, with some boring lecturer droning on about out-dated theories about dull subjects, I mean something more than that, something better.

A mistake that people often make is that they confuse qualification and education. Qualifications are tangible records of a specific educational achievement. Let’s take mine as an example. I have a degree from a university that I worked moderately hard for. OK, correction, a degree for which I did as little work as possible and spent all my time reading the much more interesting material that wasn’t on the reading list. However I learned a few things that mattered more than the principal subject, like research methodology, the scientific method and skepticism.

Later on in life I was ordained as a Minister of Religion from an entirely silly online church and followed that up with an entirely fake doctorate the certificate for which that I stole from a ridiculous online diploma mill calling itself “Belford University”. Quite clearly my “qualifications” are largely useless and they certainly haven’t really benefited me in any way recently, certainly not the joke ones.

Actually the genuine degree I have did help get me my first job but since then it’s been experience that has, I think and hope, allowed me to achieve anything professionally.

What’s more important is education in the wider sense. I think that there is real value in learning for it’s own sake. I think it’s important for everyone to know about the wonders and majesty of evolution, the history of civilisation and it’s failures and about arts and culture. I am convinced that it makes us all better people. Clearly there’s an advantage in knowing more about how the world works, partially because knowledge is just good, but also it’s one of the few free weapons we have to protect ourselves.

Last week a reader contacted us to ask about a problem he had with insurance. Some months ago he reversed into someone else’s car, causing considerable damage. He had no insurance although luckily she did. Her insurance policy covered the repairs in full but the reader was surprised when the insurance company contacted him demanding money. Was this correct, he asked?

Clearly some insurance education is needed. An insurance policy protects the interests of the insurance company’s customer, nobody else. The only person who would benefit from the insurance policy in this case is the woman who bought the policy, not the person who trashed her car. What’s more, the insurance company didn’t trash the car either and they’re entitled to try and get their money back as well. If he’d been insured it would have been his insurance company coughing up the cash but as he wasn’t, it’s him they’ll chase for the money. Put simply, if you’re not insured you have to pay for the losses you cause.

However most people don’t understand this. How many of us have actually been taught how insurance actually works? Perhaps this should be taught in school? I used to think that but now I think differently. I think that if an industry, like insurance, wants to make money from us then they should start educating us. It’s up to them to explain to us, to teach us what their products actually do.

It’s not unknown for this to happen. Some years ago Stanbic Bank published a series of booklets for school kids on banking. They explained, in just the right tone, and with just the right level of detail, how banking actually works. I thought I knew banking but I learned new things I didn’t know before.

I’d like to see the same thing from other industries. I’d like to see the insurance industry itself educating it’s existing and potential consumers on what insurance is and how it works. However I don’t expect this to be a passive thing. I don’t think consumers should need to go out of their way to be educated. They can use the newspapers, radio and the TV to actively pursue us to give us knowledge. It’s in their interests of course, they want us as customers but I think they also want us as educated customers, customers that choose the correct product and don’t end up massively angry when we later discover we were sold the wrong thing. They also, presumably, want a community that understands their products and doesn’t get upset when someone else’s insurance policy doesn’t cover them.

Obviously I think this about consumer protection, mainly because nobody in a position of authority seems to have actually read the Consumer Protection Act and Regulations and nobody at all with any power seems to want to enforce them.

But why not with the law as well? Why not with any of the “professions”? It can’t be because they prefer consumers to be ignorant, can it? Can they really believe that they’ll make more money if they keep us in the dark, can they?

Surely these industries aren’t like those “holiday clubs” that seem to rely on confusing their victims into signing irrevocable contracts that they can’t ever leave?

So here’s my appeal. Let’s see these industries starting to educate their customers on how things work. Or would they rather let Consumer Watchdog do it for them?

This week’s stars
  • Moemi and the Conference Team at the Cresta Lodge in Gaborone for going out of their way to make things happen.

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