Government’s failure to implement the recommendations of the Revised National Policy on Education (RNPE) of 1994 in which a task force led by ex-Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe which came up with progressive reforms on Education sector continues to haunt the country.
The proposed reforms saw a rare consensus among political parties, with experts alike considering the recommendations a blue print for Botswana’s education sector transformation. Although government gave thumb-up to the recommendations of the commission, Ministry of Education is struggling to implement majority of key proposed reforms. A Statistics Botswana report released this week gives highlights on education and training in Botswana for the year 2015 vindicates the necessity of implementing the RNPE of 1994 reforms.
The statistics in the new report is of good quality, policy-relevant, and reliable to serve the purpose of monitoring the existing education policies including and/or particularly the 1994 Revised National Policy on Education (RNPE). The new Statistics report points out that in terms of the Special Education Needs and Disability in Primary Schools, among others as per Kedikilwe Commission, the country is still lagging behind in many respects. “The enrolment of children in Special Education Units constituted a minimal percentage since 2011; that is less than 1.0 percent of total enrolment,” the Statistic Botswana report point out.
It further says that the percentage of enrolment in Special Education unit has been decreasing since 2012; from 0.45 percent to 0.38 percent in 2015. It asserts: “the lower percentage of children in Special Education unit could be viewed as an indication that there is still a lot that has to be done regarding provision of education to children with special education needs.”
To implement RNPE (1994) recommendations on special education, reports states that the Government continues to build special education units in existing schools, integrate and mainstream children with special education needs and disability in to the mainstream school system. According to Statistics Botswana, there were 5,097 children with special education needs in primary schools in 2015. Most of the Special Education Needs children, it posits, were those with visual impairement with 1,376 pupils followed by 1,261 of those with other Health related disability.
Moreover, it indicates higher percentage of primary school students with special education needs in 2015 being those with visual disability; constituting 27.0 percent, followed by those who have Other Health related impairement with 24.7 percent. Students with speech and hearing impairments constitute a small percentage; 6.8 and 6.5 percent respectively. Furthermore, the Government through grants supports the NGOs which provides special education.
The publication provides statistics users with comprehensive education statistics and information on the number of education institutions, enrolments, performance, teachers and facilities at primary education level. This report also provides statistics for evidence on the country’s progress towards meeting national and international obligations. Government improves on pupil teacher ratio at Primary level
The RNPE also touched on Student-teacher ratio which have been also been a headache for the government for years. On average, the report states that Botswana has experienced notable improvements in reducing average class size and pupil/teacher ratio. “The pupil teacher ratio for the trained teachers decreased from 28 pupils per trained teacher in 2006 to around 24 pupils per trained teacher in 2015,” the official Statistics report points out. It is believed that a low number of pupils per teacher translates into pupils having a better chance of contact with the teachers and hence a better teaching/learning process.
The Pupil Teacher Ratio is also one of key indicators used as proxy for assessing the quality of education, it highlights. However, the report further stresses that it should be noted that there are many other factors that affect the pupil’s learning process; qualified trained teachers, adequate teaching resources and small class sizes are generally more effective. In this regard, “North East District is the best performing in PSLE with 84.38% and South East District with 81.14% performed significantly higher than other districts. The least performing district is Ghanzi at 49.12%.”
The information provided by the report also serves to monitor education related policies and compacts including the ten year basic education for all with emphasis on inclusive education and improved equity, increasing access in secondary and higher education, National Development Plans (NDP), Vision 2016, Education For All(EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to mention among a few.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.