Basic extension skills training (BEST): A responsive approach to integrated extension for rural development in Botswana
In a rapidly changing society like Botswana, the competition for employment, training and progression on the job has become very high. The development of skills is therefore a crucial and integral part of nation building, which needs a direct link to a training programme to continuously help staff to cope with the different needs they meet in the work place. The Government of Botswana has demonstrated strong commitment over the four decades since independence to upgrade the technical and management skills of extension workers and their ability to relate with residents in rural communities, and to understand the multitude of factors that determine their behaviour, attitudes and aspirations. In recognition of the link between training and rural development, several courses have been mounted by various Government sectors, non-Governmental organizations and the private sector to close the knowledge gap of public staff, especially those who work in rural areas where the working conditions pose a unique set of challenges for extension work. The aim of this paper is to discuss the unique features of a staff training programme that has impacted positively on the training of extension workers in Botswana. The paper examines the evolution of the Basic Extension Skills Training (BEST) course in the context of integrated rural development and rural extension in Botswana. The authors explore the uniqueness of the BEST course in terms of its adherence to a number of teaching and learning principles, such as its learner centredness, and how it has impacted on the knowledge, skills and attitudes of course participants over a decade since it was first launched in 1997. The paper concludes with implications for delivery, improved performance, future training, institutional linkages, and assessment of training.
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