Annual EducationUSA Teachers’ Roundtable

As Prepared For Delivery | February 12, 2015 | Gaborone

It is a pleasure to be here with you at the third annual EducationUSA teachers’ roundtable. Today I have the privilege to talk with you about  a very important subject: education.

I believe education is the key to a country’s development. One of my favourite quotes from Nelson Mandela is: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I’m sure as educators you have heard the quote, and I hope you are also inspired by it.

As an educator you have an important job, and a huge responsibility, not only to the youth, but to your country’s advancement. My Embassy is delighted to assist you, and to help Batswana youth gain knowledge to change their world.

It’s often said that the world is shrinking. We are becoming a global village. Through the Internet, mobile phones, and other devices, we have access to people and information in any country, right at our fingertips. Globalization means the youth are even more poised to change the world, but they need the right education to be global citizens.

For these reasons, in January 2013, the U.S. Embassy opened its first EducationUSA center in Botswana in over 10 years. At that time, we engaged in a vigorous outreach campaign across Botswana to promote our services to both public and private schools. Our strategic efforts have paid off, and I am proud to report that over the past year there has been a 5.6% increase in Batswana students studying in the U.S.

EducationUSA is U.S. government network of hundreds of advising centers in 170 countries, where students can find accurate and comprehensive information about how to apply to colleges and universities in the United States. EducationUSA advisers, like our own Dolly Tau, work with higher education professionals and academic institutions to promote student enrolment, and also work directly with students to provide the information they need to make smart decisions about their future.

At this year’s EducationUSA Teachers’ Roundtable we are here to celebrate our joint achievements in 2014 and to plan for increased success in 2015. Some of those achievements include reaching over 9,400 students with information about studying in the U.S., hosting 16 U.S college representatives to address secondary and tertiary students, travelling with the Botswana Education Hub national tour, and participating in the Tertiary Education Fair. Today, you will have the opportunity to share best practices used to achieve these results, as well as discuss education and the global community – thus living up to our theme this year – Education Going Global.

Before I leave you, I would like to discuss another essential aspect of your work with youth. As guidance teachers and educators you have the important role of helping your students achieve academic excellence. But you have another equally important role – to reach youth with messages about living a constructive life. You teach and mentor young people, and you can help them gain effective life skills.

My Embassy believes that to provide effective life skills, we must teach Batswana youth comprehensive sexuality education. These targeted life skills will improve the health and well-being of today’s youth and future leaders. The Youth Call for Action released at the end of the Youth Symposium for east and southern Africa was signed by 21 participating countries, including Botswana. These countries committed to improving comprehensive sexuality education and sexual health services for youth.

My Embassy supports this Call to Action and its tenets:

  • Universal knowledge about sexual and reproductive health,
  • Equal protection for all young people under national laws, and
  • Provision of age appropriate and gender sensitive comprehensive sexuality education for all adolescents and young people.

When comprehensive sexuality education is properly delivered, young people’s knowledge of HIV and other health issues is increased. This education helps young people make wise decisions, and if this education is properly delivered, we will see delays in sexual debut and an increase in the use of contraceptives, including condoms.

Yet, to be truly effective, comprehensive sexuality education must be taught in an interactive and participatory method, by well-trained educators who are comfortable with the topic. I understand this is not easy, but these life skills have the power to save the lives of many young Batswana.

Remember Mandela’s words: Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. As guidance teachers and educators, you have the ability to empower the youth to choose a healthy future, to understand the world, and change it.

Thank you and have a productive seminar.