Problems Encountered in the Teaching of Religious Education: A Case Study in Botswana

Article excerpt


The purpose of this paper is to illuminate the types of problems faced by teachers since Religious Education was introduced as an examinable subject in primary schools in Botswana. Botswana as a democratic, caring and prosperous country embraces the existence of different religions and worship. This is a welcome development since the country upholds human rights, respects and recognizes the different freedoms enshrined in the national constitution. Despite the different religions that exist in the country, Batswana generally in different forms of art and at the highest level of political decision-making find solace in psychological and humanistic relieve in different components of Christianity as the ultimate solution to existing problems of drought, war, student riots, broken and threaten marriages and other crises including the scourge of HIV/AIDS. This is typified in different forms of prayers held mainly by the mainline churches to call upon the name of God for self-counselling, fitting remedies and ultimate solutions to diverse problems that beset Botswana as a nation.

The study is significant because it is likely to inform the theory of both primary and Adult Education. Primary school teachers may use the findings to better teach Religious education without making it a burden to their students since the problems will be known. The study is also important for the theory and practice of Adult education which is practiced on a lifelong basis within and outside in religious institutions. Past researchers have illuminated problems of having different religions and the clash between Christianity and African religions. Theorists can build new ones while practitioners can infuse the findings and recommendations of the study to improve practice at field world in schools.

Literature Review

The literature and research reviewed by the author at the time of the study ranges from secondary sources on the meaning of religion, and the intended role played by religious education to problems encountered by both students and teachers in teaching Religious Education as an examinable subject in Botswana's primary schools. Religion, order and social justice are expected to inter related concepts that bring about global peace at individual family, community, national and international levels. The three are also filtered in the realm of the human mind and translated into practice, hence the influence of humanistic psychology. In Botswana, recorded Adult education as a field of study, research and an academic discipline is still young, dynamic and therefore in the process of finding its identity. In simple terms, Adult education refers to all organized educational activities to meet the lifelong learning needs of people whose socio-cultural roles define them as adults. Qualifications for adult status in various countries include age, maturity, reproduction, gender roles and other features often identified with social responsibility.

Definitions and Functions of Religion and Religious Education

Religion and Religious education can be defined in terms of two major streams, the African traditional stream and the foreign stream of religion.

African traditional and Christianity as a foreign import are described in the contrast table below. Africans including Batswana have beliefs in gods, ancestors, and other supernatural beings for lifelong protection. Religion in the Western sense is usually identified with a superior being and

A Belief in a supreme being, who commands us to behave in a moral fashion on this earth, and promises an afterlife to come (Giddens, p. 531).

The superior being, although often equated to some kind of God, means different things to different people, hence the God exists in a context. One of the common goals of religion and religious education is to deal with differences by accommodating people constructively (Sidorkin, 1999).

Giddens further articulates the importance of religion as follows:

Religion is a matter of faith, a belief anchored in conviction rather than scientific evidence ... Religion appears central to virtually every culture on earth.... Neither commonsense nor any scientific discipline can verify or disprove religious doctrine. (p.462).

Religion involves some symbols, reverence and rituals as practised by different and diverse religious groups. The Jews are taken as the chosen race as Christianity began as a sect of Judaism. However, Christianity has spread to other parts of the world through inspiration of Jesus and his disciples as Giddens (2001) states:

Christianity spread to become a dominant force in Western culture ... Christianity today commands a greater number of adherents, and is more generally spread across the world than any other religion. (p. 534).

According to Macions and Plummer (2002) who echo Giddens notion:

Christianity is the most widespread religion, with nearly 2 billion followers who constitute roughly one third of humanity ... People who are at least nominally Christian represent significant share of the population in many other world regions, with the notable exceptions of northern Africa and Asia. (p. 468).

Several writers including Durkheim and Marx have attempted to define religion and its educational purpose.

According to Durkheim, religion serves three major functions of social cohesion, social control and provision of meaning and purpose. In social cohesion, religion unites people, expresses the human dimension of love and underscores moral and emotional ties. In social control, religion instils in believers a sense of conformity to the expected norms, ethics and code of conduct especially regarding marriage and reproduction.

Thirdly, religion provides meaning and purpose such a that religious people are unlikely to overly despair and fall apart when confronted with life calamities like death, chronic illnesses including HIV/AIDS, and broken marriages. Through religion, Durkheim argues, the individuals experience "The power of society" (Cited in Macions and Plummer, 2002, p. 483).

According to Berger & Luckmann, (1969), religion plays a crucial role in public life:

Throughout human history, religion has played a decisive part in the construction and maintenance of the universes ... it is, of course, characteristic of the development of Christianity ... It is generally absent in ancient civilizations and is almost totally unknown in primitive societies. (p. 67).

A critique of the definition and purpose of religion as offered by Marxist and Neo- Marxist scholars suggests that religion is the "opium" of the people. Marx further charged religion with promoting social inequality by supporting hierarchies.

Although what constitutes religion is often contested, Christianity is often cited as a form of sacred religion. Expressed through the Christian church, Christianity, the greatest gift of missionaries, was brought to Botswana through churches that were already divided. (Amanze, 2006). This resulted in various forms of conflicts which trickled over at different levels, and still have an impact on teaching Religious Education as an examinable subject in Botswana' primary schools. Christian denominations also went through many changes leading to convergence or divergence.

Conflicts Within the Christian Churches

Although there is one common binding thread of embracing the gospels of Jesus Christ for salvation of human souls, the Christian church has many levels of conflicts. There are different levels of conflict in the missionary field, convergence or divergence in the mission churches and conflict among churches in the mission field. There is conflict between Pentecostal and mainline churches and between African independent churches and mainline churches. There is also conflict between missionary Christianity, African and Tswana traditional religions, and conflict between Christianity and Islam. Pentecostal churches are also in conflict with mainline churches especially on matters of spirituality and what counts as best practice.

There are African Traditional Religions that are indigenous to Africans in the entire continent, and various forms of Christianity also practised within and outside Africa. Thus, the Christian church initially came as reconciliatory between the world and the creator but inherently had different levels of conflict which trickled down to affect ways in which knowledge is imparted by teachers of RE in Botswana.

African Traditional Religions

Several writers have articulated through research and literature on the essence of African traditional Religions (ATR)(Gyekye, 1996, Mbiti, 1969, Lugira, 1996, Johnson, 2004 and Amanze, 2006). ATRs as indigenous to African communities are expressed in teaching as statements of beliefs, faith of the ancient indigenous people and practises based in clans as part of both the living and the dead. Emphasis is on the spirits of the dead and rites of passage in a world where everything is alive in various forms. The main supernatural being, who is God, rules through other gods, ancestors, individuals and families. People are spiritual and physical beings, both good and bad; hence priests, priestesses and prophets exist to keep them in order. Human beings are sacrificed to reconcile with God. ATRs emphasise that God is passed on from generation to generation through cultic rites, religious practices, oral traditions, repetitive rituals and practices. There is a very close communion of the spiritual and physical realms, the natural and the supernatural, the visible and the invisible.

In an appraisal of ATR, Johnson (2004) provides a critique of ATR by Western Scholars, parrots of news, and media. He argued that prior to the 1950s; there was a negative portrayal of ATR characterised by equating Africa with uniformity, dark skin, and traditional practices with static elements rather than indigenous, many gods, evil spirits and promotion of dead relatives as intermediaries between God and living Africans. However, as more and more Africans became educated and active participants in RE scholarship, a more positive image has been constructed about the essence of ATR than ever before.

Christian Religions

There are Christian beliefs and practices of mainline, Pentecostal and African independent churches based on a common belief in one supernatural being, a creator of the universe, both the living and the dead. God rules universally by authority also given to His son, Jesus Christ. Satan is the source of rebellion and destruction. Christian beliefs are carried through the work of specialised ministers, pastors, priests and elders who communicate directly to God through His son Jesus Christ who was sent as a sacrifice to cleanse the sins of the world. Sacred books, creeds and dogmas are the main sources of Christian living, giving and receiving God's forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. The gospel offers cleansing and eternal life.

Christianity and all its teachings came from outside Africa through missionary programmes and activities. African Traditional Religions are indigenous to different ethnic groups in Africa generally and particularly in Botswana. Botswana's vision 2016 expresses tolerance and the nation is no longer ashamed of the existence of beliefs, faith and practices of other religions. In his critique, Gyeke offers a critical analysis of the African cultural experience in modern times. In their attempt to evolve ways of life appropriate to modern world culture, African people face a number of unique societal challenges, some stemming from the values and practices of their traditional cultures, others representing the legacy of European colonialism. Modernity for Africans is usually associated with European values and legacy.

The table above gives a brief summary of the different religions and other important indicators in Botswana

Religion and Social Justice

Related to multiple regions and religious tolerance is the principle of social justice. Social justice, among other things, involves education taking part in altering society in a progressive direction as espoused by Dewey and Wamba-dia-Wamba. According to Mamdani and Wamba-dia-Wamba (1995), social justice can be defined as:

The equality and inherent rights of all individuals to live in dignity, fulfilment and peace, the freedom of individuals to expression, the right to full meaningful participation in the construction of his/ her state, the right to physical well being, and the right to employment. (p.429).

Principles of social justice are found in the constitutions of the UN, OAU, Freedom Charter of the ANC, Amnesty International and many other local regional and national organizations. Rousseau and Lock are some of the great thinkers whose philosophical foundations influenced the current thinking about principles of individual rights.

A closer study of Religious education as an examinable subject is best understood within the context of the relevance of Black history, which encompasses studies of black culture, social movements and civil rights activism, and efforts to not only illuminate the conditions of Black people but to enhance their image, self esteem and build their character (Karenga, 1993). The African Diaspora regarding RE is similar to the African- American plight in that the diasporic experience has been ignored, and black identity misconstrued as senseless and superstitious. The emergence of Afro centric writers on Religion in Africa has therefore been very instrumental in giving a much more useful overview of the challenges, and portrayal of the relevance and scope Black history and African traditional religions. Writers not only focus on Christianity but other religious traditions of African origin. They further illuminate why Africans and other blacks reverted to emphasize Christianity over other religions. These are very pertinent in a holistic understanding of problems encountered in the teaching of religious education as an examinable subject in Botswana.

Theoretical Framework

Cognisant of the global and Afro-centric literature, philosophical foundations and research used to inform the study, the theoretical framework borrowed extensively from notions of a combined set of theories of RE. Amongst them are Arnold's theories of secondary education, (1859), notions of culturally sensitive teaching, and Deweyrian progressive theories of experience, freedom and a critique of the traditional school system, (1903, 1938), educational perennialism, essentialism (Bagley, 1934), and constructionist/reconstructionist. Two major common threads binding all the components of the contributions to this framework is that they either provided a critique of impositions that are not consistent with the needs of students as learners, or promoted the fight of teachers as think tanks to use their discretion in the teaching of RE.

Arnold's Theories of Secondary Education

Arnold's theories of secondary education suggest that there is an obsession by the followers of the teachings of the ancient church which gives emphasis to notions of the original sin committed in the Garden of Eden that relegated the entre human race to falling short of the glory of God. Arnold (1840) argued that the ancient past could only be understood taking into account the knowledge, historical context, understanding and processes of one's own time. The relevance of this stance to the findings of this study is that students are regarded as savages that need to be controlled by internalising society's notion of right and wrong, socially acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. This amounts to organised oppression, abuse and prescriptions of what counts as good conduct. There is a tug of war between teachers and students where cheating passes on as acceptable as long as the 'cheater acts bravely when caught and punished'. To straightjacket modern schools to studying biblical texts written by people of biblical times who died thousands of years ago requires disciplined education and educators (Wesley, 2001). A thorough understanding of the past and present is essential before imposing religious doctrines on students.

Culturally Sensitive Teaching

The notion of culturally sensitive teaching requires not only awareness but a careful and concerted effort to be sensitive to schools as made of students and teachers from diverse individual, family, community and ethnic backgrounds, religious norms customs and values. Teachers should therefore have schools regulations and curriculum content that provide an opportunity for freedom in the choice of subjects, qualified and trained teachers commensurate with the needs of teaching various religions and cultural sensitivity.

Deweryian Theories

Dewey's main argument if that RE is conditioned by modern psychology and pedagogy. Components of Deweriaryna theories relevant for this paper include experience and freedom (Religious Education Association, Chicago, 1903; Dewey, 1938). In his critique of the traditional school system as equivalent to 'banking education', Dewey's critique is that every experience must always be the starting point for any educational encounter rather than treating education (like money stored in a bank) as the prerogative of formal classrooms. His argument is that experience, which takes place across people's lifespan, is lifelong and takes place beyond the four walls of the classroom. It is therefore important for every teaching transaction to begin with a thorough understand of what the learners have experienced, thus pouring new wine into old wine. On freedom, Dewey argued that children must have the right to choose what they see as good for their lives as they grow, rather than be subsumed into the religious beliefs of their parents. He urged religious educationists to accept the principle of gradual development of RE knowledge and experience as crucial for requisite normal development.

Educational Perennialism

Educational perennialism suggests that whatever lasts for a long, indefinite time recurs and becomes self renewing. According to Aquinas a 13thc thinker, perennialism was originally religious. Educational perenialism is tolerant of religious pluralism. Within the Islamic tradition of RE, religious pluralism is not tolerated. By contrast, educational perennialism recommends a universal curriculum, based on the nature of all human beings in the entire universe is highly recommended and promoted by Hutchins and Alder. This curriculum, they argue, must have humanistic and scientific traditions. The relevance of educational perennialism to this study is that successful teaching of RE should mean having it as part of the global curriculum rather than selected schools and communities. If it is universal, that can minimise any problems of the teaching and learning of RE.


Essentialism as articulated by Bagley, (1938) poses several educational principles such as the right of an immaticulate, educated, caring and cultured teacher guided by democratic principles and professionalism. Bagley asserted the concepts of discipline, authority, tradition and scientific truth as important in any form of progressive education, while language and maths were important for 'socially useful curriculum' (Bagley 1938, Wesley 2001/2003). Essentialists believe that there must abolition or complementation dominating theories of teaching and curriculum.


Constructivists support the notion of multiple realities and that whatever is known is a figment of what people construct in their minds. Constructivists totally reject the notion of absolute truth. People construct and reconstruct as they teach and learn more across all disciplines.

Critiques as offered as contributions to the combined theoretical framework above are consistent with the finding that while there is value to exposing students to RE, there are problems inherent in the teaching of RE as an examinable subject in Botswana's primary schools.


Qualitative methodology and Humanistic philosophy, especially the national vision pillar of creating a Compassionate and Caring Nation of Responsible citizens, informed this research based paper.

The purpose of this study was to investigate problems associated with the teaching of RE as an examinable subject in selected primary schools in Botswana. A qualitative study of students and teachers was therefore the most appropriate for the author to capture data from the group most vulnerable to experiencing identified problems. The type of study, the nature of the questions asked and the setting to be studied required fieldwork and use of qualitative methods. Because the author needed to have deeper understanding, rather than quantitative descriptions of people who had not experienced any problems in the teaching of RE, a qualitative study was the most appropriate.

Qualitative methodology is generally defined as a multi-method research approach that neither privileges any paradigms or theory nor has a distinct set of data collection methods. It is therefore a site of multiple research methodologies and research practices (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994).

Rationale For Using Qualitative Methodology

The main strength of qualitative methodology is that it is inductive, applicable to specific situations and places emphasis on words rather than numbers. It is suited for meaning, context, unanticipated phenomena, and understanding numbers (Maxwell, 1996). It is also useful in a variety of fields including Adult Education (Merriam, 1988; 1998). Qualitative research can take many forms; typical are focus groups, in-depth interviews (IDIs), mini-groups, dyads, and triads. In-depth interviews were the main method of data collection.

Qualitative methodology involves multiple research methods and research practices (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994). Based on the assumption that I and individual pastors hold different but complementary views on religion, order and social justice, qualitative type questions were the most appropriate for me to participate in the conference discourse subsumed in the key terms that capture the theme of the conference.

The main strength of qualitative methodology is the opportunity it provides to examine the relationship between religion, social justice, the relevance of humanistic psychology and the role of adult education. Qualitative methods of inquiry emphasize perceptions, subjective meanings, and existentialism and lived experiences. Bias, though often perceived by quantitative researchers as unhealthy in research, is acknowledged by qualitative researchers as inevitable in the joint negotiated production of knowledge by the researcher and the researched. Therefore, the author would like to acknowledge that qualitative research by its nature, as applied in this research, involved some bias towards Christianity as the dominant religion in Botswana, although its dominance is gradually eroded by the proliferation of other religious doctrines.

Altogether, a total of 200 respondents (100 teachers and 100 students) were covered during the study.

Data Collection Methods

The paper is based on four main methods of data collection.

Review of Documents

Firstly, I read relevant passages in the holy bible and documents on religion, order and social Justice. (See reference section).

One-on-One of One Interviews and Focus Groups with Teachers and Students

The sample was biased towards teachers and students because they were perceived by the author to be the most knowledgeable in articulating problems encountered in the teaching of RE in Botswana. Non-Christians were not included in the sample because it was not expected that they were "information- rich" enough to articulate the problems. There was a bias towards people that were likely to have experienced the problems hence the English adage that "Only the pot knows how hot the fire is".

One-on-One Interviews and Focus Groups

The major research questions that guided the study were as follows:

i. What is your understanding of religious education?

ii. Do you consider Christianity a form of religion?

iii. Have you received any training in teaching Religious Education?

iv. What are the causes of teaching Religious education in your school?

v. What are the root causes of those problems?

vi. What are the possible solutions?

Informative and Educative Role as a Qualitative Researcher

As a qualitative researcher, and a Christian having fellowship in one of the mainline churches, I believe I am an important instrument of research for this paper. I have to acknowledge my own Christian beliefs and biases towards Christianity as compared to other forms of religions. I have to point out that I am comfortable with these biases because hi-lighting them is consistent with tenets of qualitative research. I am therefore part of the production of data for this paper. And interviews with the five pastors formed an important process of negotiating meanings

Personal and professional interests, time and other constraints influenced my sample selection.

Firstly, qualitative research methods were used for this study to capture data on participants' perceptions, understanding and meaning making in their most natural setting (Merriam, 1988).

Secondly, the use of a variety of the methods, triangulation, as noted by Elandson, et al., (1993), gave the author an opportunity to reduce biased conclusions drawn from using one specific method of data collection. This also created opportunities for documenting multiple rather than single realities. The case study was particularistic, descriptive, heuristic (understanding) and inductive because the author was interested in the one case with two groups for comparison; teachers and students.

Thirdly, the author wanted to have a rich understanding of the single case through participants' stories, record answers and draw possible solutions to the problem of teaching RE an examinable subject. This required investigation of deep meanings that could not be derived except by qualitative research. The meanings of the students and teachers were the "generative themes" which would form the "curriculum" of any subsequent transformational process that may benefit primary and secondary schools in Botswana. The meanings may not only be useful to educators but social welfare workers, political scientists, politicians, psychologists and government agencies. Based on findings of this study, it may be possible to develop more accurate measures or alternative ways of looking at RE which can improve present and future curriculum development and focus.

Lastly, qualitative methodology also gave the author, in her role as an instrument of research, an opportunity to contribute to informing the study. The author considers herself to have been an important resource in this study because as she listened to the teachers and students, she also interpreted through her own filters. In qualitative research, the notion of one absolute truth is discounted. Overall, since the study dealt with people's perceptions and opinions, qualitative methodologies were the best to use for giving answers to research questions on problems encountered by teachers and students in the teaching of Religious Education (RE). Case study as one of the traditions of qualitative research involves flexibility emphasized in exploration, the author was able to narrow focus to selected schools, pose extra questions by probing and collected information based on particular contexts. This information cannot be generalized to all the entire school population.

Weaknesses of a Case Study.

Critiques of case study argue that they have inherent subjectivity because of the role of the researcher, are expensive and incredible (Yin, 1989). They call for reporting of preliminary findings by researchers to reduce bias and conflict of interest.

Humanistic Philosophy

The relevance of humanistic philosophy and vision 2016 articulated in this paper is that it is premised on the need for Religious Education to create an educated, humane society where there is love, caring with "botho",--well rounded characters with material and emotional support to one another, compassion, peace, unity, democracy, and "Kagisano"--social harmony. These are influenced by Religious Education and are culturally key practices of the global community, though in varying amounts, including Batswana as a people.

Humanistic Philosophy and Psychology of Adult Education

The paper is further informed by both humanistic philosophy and the psychology of adult education. The relevance of humanistic philosophy and psychology of adult Education articulated in this paper is that it is premised on the indigenous need to create an educated, humane society where there is love, caring, botho, (a well rounded character) material and emotional support. Humanistic philosophical connotations are also expressed in Botswana's national vision 2016 compiled by the Presidential Task Force on a Long Term Vision for Botswana (1997). An educated, informed and humane approach would form and shape order, social justice and influence the way people perceive themselves and others in the society in which they live, hence the psychological foundations of adult education. Mezirow's theory of perspective transformation (1994) suggests that as adults learn, they reflect, they develop meaning schemes and become transformed as they learn. Learning about religion, order and social justice is transformative to the human mind and ultimately may results in behavioural change.

The Relevance of Humanistic Philosophy and Psychology of Adult Education

Humanistic philosophy draws from Greco-Roman thinkers, Italian Renaissance and the enlightenment in educational practice. Within humanistic philosophy are several expressions and themes including scientific humanism, Christian humanism, Marxist humanism and existentialism. This paper incorporates expressions mainly from Christian humanism and existentialism. Among the pacesetters of humanistic philosophy are psychologists including Maslow, Rogers, Buhler, Knowles and Bugental. Humanistic philosophy assumes that human nature is "Intrinsically good ... that the self has potential for growth and self-actualization" (Merriam and Brockett, p. 40). Humanism also emphasizes the need to help and develop individual capacity as articulated in Knowles' work on self-directedness of the learner in meeting a variety of needs ranging from physiological to self actualization. (Knowles, 1980). The teacher is a facilitator of learning adult learners. African traditional religions also have similarities to promoting peace, unity, love, care, compassion and diversity. However, a major difference is that different forms of Christianity do not recognise the significance of ancestors because of the belief that the dead are lifeless, unconscious and unaware of what is happening around them. A critical assessment of the past related literature and research reviewed by the author indicates that despite the noble intensions of religion to bring about social order and social justice, teachers and students said they had faced problems.

Overall, the results of the study as discussed below are of great value in illuminating the dynamics of teaching RE as an examinable subject from the perspectives of teachers and students who had experienced the teaching- learning transactions.

Field Data Collection

Literature and research review ran concurrently with field data collection since there was limited time and other resources. Field data collection firstly entailed gaining entry by introducing myself to the school heads of selected primary schools and explaining the intension of the case study. The schools remained the main convenient venues for meeting both teachers and students in the afternoons during the period allocated for fieldwork.

Data Analysis

Once all the field data was collected, the author resumed the process of data analysis by validating all the responses for completeness, coding all the responses and classifying like ones together prior to interpretation. Quantitative data was grouped into different categories while qualitative data was classified into themes that emerged as I went through all the data sets.

A Brief SWOT Analysis of the Processes of Data Collection and Analysis.

The main strength of my data collection is that the primary schools operate for only half a day. That gave me an opportunity to devote all the afternoons to data collection at well defined and convenient venues. The main weakness is that I had intended to cover a bigger sample by including respondes outside Molepolole village where the study was carried out, but time, finances and personnel made it impossible for me to include all eligible respondents as part of the population. I therefore had to sample and it is not clear how much the sampling affected the possible results had I included all eligible teachers and students. The findings can however be generalised because by the time I was about to complete the filed data collection, I had almost reached a stage where the responses were not too disparate (theoretical saturation).


The study was needed to serve as a framework for problem identification, and implementation of solutions to the problems encountered by Primacy Teachers (and students) in Religious Education in Botswana's Primary Schools. Responses from teachers and students in selected primary schools are presented in tables below.

Discussion of Data in Table 2

Age and occupation/title were the two variables that were included in the interview schedule.


About 33.3% (33) of the teachers were aged 29-39 years while 67% (67) were aged 40-50 years. The teachers' age indicate that they qualified to be in the labor force--not too young, not too old.

Job Titles

About 83% (83) were teachers and only 17% (17) were senior teachers. Generally teachers in all primary schools outnumber senior teachers, deputy principals and principal because there are very few senior positions in the field of teaching. It is therefore not a surprise that more teachers participated in the study than did other categories of senior, deputies and school principals.

Understanding of Religious Education

Teachers were asked to articulate their understanding of Religious Education. About 17% (17) understood religious education as the teaching of different religions while the majority of 83% added different teaching of beliefs, values and morals to their understanding of teaching different religions. Definitions of religion and Christianity are intertwined because they suggest that religion is "A way of life of the believer."

The summary of results suggests that there is difficulty in observing different and religious beliefs in Primary Schools. This finding further suggests that teachers perceived religious education in a wider context than just the teaching of different religions. However, since Christian religions and practices dominated Botswana before the introduction of RE as an examinable subject, it is important to note that teachers' knowledge base was mainly Christian rather than other religions.

Training in Religious Education

Teachers were asked to indicate if they had received any training in religious Education. About 50% (50) had received training while the other 50% (50) had not received any training in the teaching of Religious Education. This finding suggests that there is a need for all teachers to be trained in Religious Education to solve training related problems that may be encountered by teachers since the introduction of Religious Education in Primary Schools.

Problems Encountered

Teachers were asked to state the problems they had encountered in Religious Education in primary schools, and they answered as follows:

(a) Only 17% (17) had encountered problems 67% (67) had not encountered any problems while 17% (17) said the teaching of Religious Education was still new and she was still learning how students react to religious education.

(b) About 33% (33) had nothing to say since they had not experienced problems, while 67% (67) articulated problems of language barriers, lack of or insufficient knowledge of religions other than Christianity.

(c) Teachers complained that non- English words were difficult to pronounce.

(d) Other religions are very unique. Teachers said that other religions are very different from Christianity, a religion they were most familiar with. This finding suggests that the teachers were aware of their own inadequate knowledge and skills in teaching Religious Education.

The findings suggest that there are problems of lack of teacher training in the teaching of Religious Education, competing religions, and lack of passion of students taking Religious Education, problems encountered (regardless of how many teachers noticed them) in Religious Education in Primary schools. These findings must be treated with caution because of the small size of the sample which is typical of using qualitative case study methodology.

Root Causes of the Problems Encountered

When asked to state the root causes of the problems they had encountered in the teaching of RE, the teachers responded as follows:

(a) The traditionally dominant religion in Botswana is Christianity. Most of Batswana, including teachers, are familiar with Christian doctrines and practice from early childhood. It is therefore difficult for teachers with a childhood background of Christianity to cope with the hard task of imparting knowledge, positive attitudes and develop adequate skills and practices in competing religions.

(b) Teachers are not fully equipped to be aware of or develop sensitivity to the unique practice and elements of other religions. To strike a balance in dissemination of information is not easy for teachers.

(c) A pedagogical system of instruction as applied in primary schools means that the teachers are perceived as "experts" who know it all and take over what is to be learned and selection of the methods of teaching. The students' duty is to learn the subject.

(d) Students have very limited experiences and remain recipients rather than contributors to what is to be learned. Students are not a homogenous group. Some may like religious education while others don't.

(c) Some students taking religious education do so not out of passion but simply to fulfill the requirements of their programmes.

(d) Most of the teachers do not have adequate skills on how to impart information on different religions to students. Teachers' knowledge on the subject of different religions (besides Christianity) is inadequate or non- existent.

(e) Pronunciation of words from religions other than Christianity is difficult especially if compounded with lack of familiarity with other religions.

(f) Some teachers said they were afraid of being accused of indoctrinating students with their own religion and therefore deviating from what the students are taught in their homes.

Solutions to the Problems

When asked to suggest solutions to the problems they had encountered, the teachers answered as follows:

(a) Only one of the teachers said there was nothing to suggest as a solution to problems of teaching RE in schools. The rest of the teachers suggested training workshops as part of expanding teachers' capacity in the teaching of RE.

Christianity as a Form of Religion

When asked if they considered Christianity as a form of religion, all the teachers said that they considered Christianity as a form of religion. This suggests that with the introduction of the teaching of other religions, teachers did not marginalize them in favor of Christianity that had dominated Botswana schools. They added Christianity to other religions without prejudice to any of the new ones.

(a) About 17% (17) had no suggestion while 83% (83) suggested training workshops to equip them with the knowledge, positive attitudes towards religions other than Christianity, skills to impart knowledge and hopefully best practices as the ultimate goal of training workshops.

(b) Teachers further said they needed training especially with a focus on teaching non- English words, and relevant resource materials if they are expected to effectively impart knowledge to students.

(c) The respondents also mentioned that teachers must be familiarized with new religions at an early stage so that they can internalize them and build confidence and dilute their biases towards Christianity.

(d) During teacher training, teachers must be given an opportunity to collaborate with leaders of different religions to learn about them and carve the way forward for a balanced teaching of Religious education.

Teachers of RE

(a) Teachers were asked if they were teaching Religious Education. All of them said they were teaching Religious Education. This finding suggests that teachers, regardless of their training in teaching Religious Education, were participants in teaching it.

(b) Some teachers may be deficient in knowledge of other religions but they are still expected to teach them. This is consistent with the hypothesis that there are problems encountered by teachers since the introduction of Religious Education in Primary Schools.

From the information given by the respondents, the researcher observed that because people fear death, they have a system of beliefs and related practices they do in preparation for the eternal heavenly kingdom. Christians in particular believe in the power of the supernatural God almighty. (Interview notes, October 2007).

4.2 Responses From Students

The students responded to the questions in the interview schedule as follows:

Students said they were happy with RE as a compulsory and examinable subject at Primary School level only, despite problems of their own failure to practice and live as prescribed especially in relation to the dominant religion, Christianity as practiced by diverse Christian groups. Religious education is compulsory only at Primary School level to give students the basics of the core national belief system and socially acceptable moral fabric. At secondary and tertiary levels of schooling, it is not compulsory as learners are expected to freely concentrate more on subjects that can give them an opportunity to develop certain areas of specialization than basic knowledge. RE beyond Primary School level also serves as an area of specialization for learners who wish to further pursue it as a career. It is important to note that while Batswana can not be reprimanded for engaging in religions of their choice, there is, at a national level, an inevitable bias toward different forms of Christian religions in terms of practice. For instance, when oaths are made by country presidents, judges, and other practices of the judiciary, candidates are required to hold the bible and allude to attesting, in absolute terms, the biblical truth, yet truth may exist in other religions.

Demographic Data

Age, sex and Standard (STD) (grade level) were the three variables that were included in the interview schedule for students. About 83% (83) of the students were aged 11-12 years while 16.7% (17) was aged 13 years. The students' age indicate that they qualified to be in primary school.

About 17% (17) was male and 83% (83) female. About 17% (17) were in STD 1-2, and 83% (83) in STD 5-6. All the students said Religious study courses were compulsory for them to take at all levels of their primary school education and they were all satisfied with the arrangement that RE was made compulsory.

Validation of the Problems as Identified by the Students

The validation exercise involved the checking of whether there were problems, encountered by students taking Religious Education as an examined subject. The ultimate goal was to identify the riot causes of the problems and identify lasting solution based on the responses from participants in Molepolole.

Problems Encountered by Students

Students were asked to articulate problems they encountered since the introduction of Religious Education in Primary Schools in Botswana, and they answered as follows:

(a) About 17% (17) had not encountered any problems, 67% (67) said they had not encountered any problems while only 17% (17) said he had experienced problems relating to personal beliefs. Similarly to the answers given by teachers, there are problems encountered, regardless of the sample size. It can be concluded from this finding that students, like teachers had encountered some kind of problems in Religious Education in their school.

(b) Students said that despite the teaching of religious education, some cases of abandonment of still borne and aborted children of teenage mothers had been recorded in primary schools. The teaching of religious education may have instilled fear that immorality had taken place and teenage mothers concealed it by abandoning their children from unwanted pregnancies.

Causes of Problems Encountered

(a) Students were asked to identify the causes of problems they had encountered. About 67 % (67) had nothing to say since they had not experienced problems, while 33 % (33) articulated problems of language barriers, lack of or insufficient knowledge of religions other than Christianity, and lack of resources such as trained personnel, experts in pronunciation of concepts of other religions and lack of knowledge on the part of teachers themselves.

(b) These findings above suggest that the students were aware of their own and teachers' inadequate knowledge and understanding of Religious Education and that they needed to be taught by knowledgeable and trained teachers in that regard if they are expected to effectively develop knowledge, positive attitudes, skills and best practice.

Solutions to Problems

(a) Students were asked to suggest possible solutions to problems they encountered. About 50 % (50) had no suggestion while 17 % (17) said nothing could be done, and 33% suggested training of qualified teachers and workshops to equip them with the knowledge, positive attitudes towards religions other than Christianity, skills to impart knowledge and hopefully best practices as the ultimate goal of education and training workshops.

(b) Students suggested neighborhood watch to oversee cases of abandonment of children, theft, robbery and other social problems that Religious Education aims to curb.

Attitude towards Religious Education

Students were asked what they liked/disliked about the introduction of Religious Education. None of them disliked Religious Education.

* All the students -100% (100) said they liked the introduction of Religious Education as a way of helping them understand religions other than Christianity as a dominant form of religion This finding suggests that with the introduction of the teaching of other religions, students, like teachers, did not marginalize them in favor of Christianity that had dominated Botswana schools.

Findings of the study suggest that from time immemorial, African traditional belief systems were dominant and well understood by Batswana who subscribed to them. With the advent of Christianity as the dominant religion through the activities of the missionaries, Christianity replaced most of the belief systems that people had, not only in Botswana but other black African countries. However, a few countries and writers in black Africa continued with their religions and resisted the advent of Christianity and other religions. When RE became an examinable subject in Botswana, this placed a burden on teachers in terms of expected competencies and practices.

Teachers interviewed said they encountered problems related to lack of knowledge, inadequate training, unfamiliarity with religions other than Christianity, negative attitudes towards religions other than Christianity, and lack of skills to promote best practice in relation to other religions.

By contrast, students said they encountered problems of lack of interest in RE as an examinable subject, failure by some of them to do what they preach, lack of understanding of other religions especially that even the teachers were not competent to teach unfamiliar religions.


Findings from teachers and students suggest that the majority of teachers, regardless of their age and job titles, had experienced problems in teaching RE. Teachers articulated a sound understanding of RE, which they associated with the teaching of beliefs, morality and values of different religious groups. Teachers also emphasised the importance of training of teachers in RE since it was still a newly introduced examinable subject with teething problems. Problems encountered were related to language barriers, lack of knowledge of the contents of religions other than Christianity, and difficulty in pronouncing unfamiliar concepts used by different religions. The teachers suggested training workshops on teaching to give them an opportunity to develop the skills essential for them to effectively teach RE.

Lessons Learned

The study broadened the knowledge base for purposes of informing theory and practice of Religious Education and other stakeholders by illuminating problems encountered by teachers and students since Religious Education was introduced as an examinable subjects.

Recognising Christianity and other forms of religious educational practices is very important for keeping social order and there is a need to recognize it by practicing social justice in terms of attaching some value to what leaders do.

Conclusions and Recommendations


The first conclusion drawn from the study is that teachers' and students' responses indicated that they had continued to encounter problems since the introduction of religious education in Primary Schools. Secondly, teachers and students further illuminated disorder that is likely to occur if there were no sources of moral standards and tolerance that is preached through RE, and injustice that exist particularly in low salaries of teachers with different but important competencies.

If Botswana as a nation is serious about creating a caring society, there is a need to rethink incentives that can reward RE teachers in the country because they are called upon to do an indispensable job of counselling, imparting knowledge, instilling positive attitudes towards all religions, and need to be skilled in promoting best practices.

From the discussion above, it can be seen that religion, Christianity in particular, adult education, order and social justice perceived from a humanistic--psychological philosophical orientation are intertwined.

Christianity appeals to the hearts and mental realm of accepting the gospel of Christ and concretizing it with behavioural change. Changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices form the core of the business of adult education as self-development, social transformation and critical pedagogy.

Based on the findings of the study, the author poses recommendations and implications for curriculum development, better and balanced training of teachers in Christianity and all unfamiliar religions, provision of incentives for RE teachers, and marketing of RE as an examinable subject to attract students.


Both teachers and students felt the need to continuously sound the alarm, network with others and advocate for order, and justice by exposing and speaking against marginalising Religious Education.

Until religious education curriculum, training and salaries are reviewed, the potential role of religious education in promoting order and social justice remain incomplete.

Below, I articulate implications of religion, order and social justice for adult Education.

Implications for Adult Education

1. Adult Education as a self-developmental enterprise, social transformation and critical pedagogy has a strong legacy of supporting diversity, including religious groups. Christian church leaders. Adult Educators must discern, be sensitive and challenge religious disadvantage, if any.

2. African Adult Educators have to continually sound the alarm, network with others and advocate for order and justice by exposing and speaking against disorder, and injustice that exist particularly in churches and in the circular world. Until order and social justice are redressed within and outside the diverse religions, the mission of adult education in shaping the products from the psychological, behaviourist and humanistic philosophies will remain incomplete.

3. The role of African adult education in promoting order and social justice must not start and end with enlightenment only. The habit of marginalising other religions is not necessarily out of ignorance. Those in control of the state machinery and the general public knows the various levels at which the Christian church struggles to meet the needs of people who do not even show commitment to Christian doctrines. The Christian and other religions must consistently and gently reprimand perpetrators of disorder and social injustice beginning with the church and including the wider society.


AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

ATR: African Traditional Religions

CODESRIA: Council for Development of Educational and Social Science Research in Africa.

HIV: Human Immune Virus

RE: Religious Education


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Dr Raditoaneng serves as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Adult Education. University of Botswana. Faculty, of Education, and Department of Adult Education in Gaborone. She is a multidisciplinary Rural Sociologist trained in Adult and health education.

Table 1: Different Religions and other important indicators in

Specification   Botswana

Christianity    70% of the population (Christian, (Anglican,
                Methodist, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Catholics,)
                15% Christian, 85% indigenous 1 % others)

Badimo          6% of the population

No religion     20% of the population

Muslims         5,000 (mainly of Asian origin

Bahai           700

Hindus          3,000

Source: 2003 Population Census Report, Central Statistics Office.

Table 2: Presentation of Data

1. Age of respondent                        Frequency   Valid Percent

  29-39                                             33           33.30

  1. Age of respondent                      Frequency   Valid percent

  40-50                                             67           66.70

  Total                                            100          100.00

2. What is your occupation/Title?

  Teacher                                           83           83.30

  Senior Teacher                                    17           16.70

  Total                                            100          100.00

3. What is your Understanding of RE?

  * Teaching Different religions                    17           16.70

  * Teaching Different                              83           83.30

  Total                                            100          100.00

4. Have you received any training in RE?

  Yes                                               50           50.00

  No                                                50           50.00

  Total                                            100          100.00

5. Have you encountered any problems
in teaching RE?

  Yes                                               17           17.00

  No                                                82           82.00

  Others                                             1            1.00

  Total                                            100          100.00

6. What are the root causes of problems?

  Nothing                                           30           30.00

Language barriers/lack of knowledge                 70           70.00

  Total                                            100          100.00

7. What are the solutions to the

  Nothing                                            1           17.00

  Training workshops                                83           83.00

  Total                                            100          100.00

8. Do you consider Christianity as a
form of religion?

  Yes                                              100             100

9. Are you a teacher of RE?

  Yes                                              100          100.00

Classification of Responses from Students

Age of respondent                Frequency    Percent    Valid Percent

  11-12                             83         83.30         83.30
  13+                               17         16.70         16.70
  Total                             100       100.00        100.00

Sex of respondent                Frequency    Percent    Valid Percent

  Male                              17         16.70         16.70
  Female                            83         83.30         83.30
  Total                             100       100.00        100.00

Title of respondent              Frequency    Percent    Valid Percent

  Stdl-2                            17         16.70         16.70
  Std5-6                            83         83.30         83.30
  Total                             100       100.00        100.00

Question 1: Is Religious
Stud Compulsory?                 Frequency    Percent    Valid Percent

  Yes                               100       100.00        100.00

Question 2: Are you satisfied
with RE as a compulsory
subject?                         Frequency    Percent    Valid Percent

  Satisfied                         100       100.00        100.00

Question 3: What problems
have you encountered             Frequency    Percent    Valid Percent

  .00                               17         16.70         16.70
  None                              67         66.70         66.70
  Personal beliefs                  17         16.70         16.70
  Total                             100       100.00        100.00

Question 4: What are the
root causes of problems?         Frequency    Percent    Valid Percent

  .00                               67         66.70         66.70
  Lack of resources                 33         33.30         33.30
  Total                             100       100.00        100.00

Question 5: What are the
Solutions to the problems?       Frequency   Percent ^   Valid Percent

  .0                                50         50.00         50.00
  Nothing                           17         16.70         16.70
  Others                            33         33.30         33.30
  Total                             100       100.00        100.00

Attitudes towards RE             Frequency    Percent    Valid Percent

Question 6: What do you
Like/Dislike about RE?              100       100.00        100.00

Question 7: What additional
comments can you make?           Frequency    Percent    Valid Percent

                                    100       100.00        100.00