Sunday, 9 October 2016

Back to School!

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week we held our annual Consumer Watchdog conference at the GICC in Gaborone. We had a range of speakers and workshop leaders who all had something important to say. The theme was “Back to School” and education underpinned everything that happened at the conference.

Hon. Minister of Education, Dr Unity Dow
For instance, we had speakers who spoke about the power of learning from mistakes. There’s a great quote from Steve jobs, the co-founder and mildly insane visionary from Apple. Discussing the approach he planned following his reappointment as head of the company he said “Some mistakes will be made along the way. That's good 'cos at least some decisions are being made along the way. And we'll find the mistakes. We'll fix them.”

Percy Raditladi
That’s ambitious but it’s more than just about taking decisions. I genuinely believe that we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. One of the reasons is that, let’s face it, most of our successes are accidental whereas our failures are due to ignorance or inexperience. With luck and hard work both ignorance and inexperience can be remedied but accidental victories teach you nothing.

Other speakers spoke about the fact that it’s never too late in life to learn new skills. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your professional background might be, there are always opportunities to develop news skills or improve old ones. I’ve met various people over the years who’ve done this. After decades working in one industry they have completely abandoned it and gone their own way, usually influenced by a hobby or passion that drew them away.

Nkata Seleka, Sleek Foods
Another topic that came up was the importance of technology in education. This is perhaps the biggest possible change in the way people, not just children, can learn and develop. Those of us old enough to remember the days before the widespread use of computers and the development of cellphones remember how difficult it was to get access to learning materials. Printed materials were expensive, heavy, cumbersome and easy damaged. Libraries weren’t always nearby and even when you got to the library there was no guarantee that the book you wanted would be there and not taken out by someone else ahead of you.

Dr Patrick Benon, Orange
Things have changed. It hasn’t reached everyone yet but fairly soon, even here in Botswana, education will be going electronic. My iPad has the capacity to hold an entire library’s stock of books. And if I lose the iPad or it breaks? I connect the replacement to my laptop or to the internet and the library automatically reappears. They also appear on every other computer or phone registered to my account. Yes, you might argue that iPads are expensive and you’d be correct, but given that the books I’ve bought have often been only half or a third of the price of their printed equivalents, the price of the device is effectively a lot cheaper.

TK Tekane, Botswana Savings Bank
This new way of distributing educational materials is going to be transformative. No longer will containers full of books need to be shipped by road, sea or air around the world when they just need to be loaded onto a server somewhere for download.

This is also going to have an effect on the way in which children are taught in schools. We simply won’t need the old approach of a teacher lecturing her students on facts, dates and figures. Instead, teachers are going to need to become guides who teach their learners HOW to learn and how to critically consider the material out there.

Bobby Tlhabiwe, Engen
The sad truth is that we’re in desperate need of education. So many of our friends, relatives and neighbours are falling victim to a range of scams and schemes that deprive them of money and often their feelings and the primary reason they fall for them is naivete. They’re not all stupid people, but they’re catastrophically gullible. They fail to question the things that are said to them and believe it when their “boyfriend” from Facebook says he’s sending her a shipment full goodies. They genuinely believe the person who calls claiming to be from the shipping agent saying she has to pay to release the package. They’re so convinced that the package and the laptop, iPhone, jewelry and cash it contains exists that they cough up the money.

Adam Jones, Wealth magazine
That’s one of the reasons we held a workshop at the conference on critical thinking and how it can protect people from abuse. It wasn’t just about scams, it also covered Ponzi schemes like Eurextrade and MMM Global, pyramid schemes like WorldVentures and multi-level marketing schemes. The best protection against all of these threats is education.

But who’s best placed to offer this education? No, it’s not the Ministry of Education. While it’s their job to include critical thinking and consumer rights in the curriculum that doesn’t help those of us who left school decades ago. I think that’s where business should take the lead. Who better to teach us about managing money than the experts. I think banks, insurance companies and legitimate micro-lenders should be getting off their rear ends and teaching their customers and the public in general on how money works. And how it doesn’t work.

Uyapo Ndadi, Ndadi Law Firm
The good news is that every one of the speakers at the conference understands this. Everyone one of them is not only a business leader but also a teacher. They teach their staff how to do things, not in classrooms or by sending them on horribly expensive training in far-flung places, but by example. Here’s a free lesson for business leaders who aren’t like the friends who spoke at the conference. You can’t expect your staff to work any harder than you do.

Bilkiss Moorad, Botswana Life Insurance Ltd
Her shoes
What was the best thing about the conference? The atmosphere. We didn’t just teach people we entertained them. There was music, dance, art and (this certainly isn’t a common thing at conferences) fun.

Join our Facebook group and I’ll show you proof of this.

No comments: