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Gov’t reforms the tertiary education funding

Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research Science and Technology is reforming its tertiary education funding, with new draft policy placing emphasis on funding students who pursue technical and vocational training.

Minister of Tertiary Education, Research and Technology Dr Alfred Madigele has this week, in an exclusive interview revealed that the current funding model, the Grant Loan Scheme which was introduced in 1995 is going under review. “The 1995 Grant Loan Scheme was mainly catering for government jobs. It was responding to white-collar jobs only. It was looking at teaching carers and social sciences programmes, which are essentially white-collar jobs,” said Dr Madigele.

“Those sectors which were catered for are now saturated such that there are fewer and fewer vacancies in those sectors. Essentially, we need to re-invent the Grant Loach Scheme for tertiary education financing to respond [to today’s needs].” Dr Madigele, who is also legislator for Molapowabojang-Mmathethe constituency said currently the government is reviewing the tertiary education financing policy to respond to the challenges the country faces now.

“There are a lot of educated people with Diplomas, Degrees, Masters or even PhDs but they do not have jobs. It does not necessarily mean there are no jobs in Botswana. It means those particular sectors are saturated,” observed Dr Madigele. He said, sectors such as tourism, mining, construction present a wide range of opportunities for other careers but the sectors are dominated by foreign nationals. Dr Madigele is of the view that the country has not done enough to produce enough artisans, hence the jobs are taken by people from outside.

“If you walk around town, or go to CBD [Central Business District] you would find that most of construction employees, plumbers and others are done by our neighbours from Zimbabwe, Chinese and other foreign nationals. These are jobs which actually should be going to Batswana,” he stated.

The former Assistant Minister of Health noted that in the review that his ministry is undertaking, they are taking into consideration these careers which are in demand, by offering variety of options for pursuing them, including up-skilling citizens as well are re-tolling them to be able to deliver the desired results. “Within the draft policy, we want to put more emphasis on the TVET (Technical and Vocational Education Training) sector which we believe it will help us to reduce unemployment,” he said.

A report released by Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) in 2016 titled “Tertiary Education at a Glance” indicated that enrolment by government technical colleges is very low and is not rising in any significant way.  “This means that Technician level training in Botswana has a very low share of tertiary enrolments. Given that a growing economy needs all kinds of technicians in the critical skill areas like Electrical/Electronics, Construction/Building, computer engineering, Instrumentation and mechanical engineering this trend is worrying,” reads the report.

“The technical colleges seem to have good infrastructure that is comparable to others. So this trend shows us anecdotally that there may well be low utilisation of existing resources in the technical Colleges.” The report further indicates that data from government technical colleges shows an inconsistent and erratic trend over the years with some courses done one year and then seemingly abandoned the next enrolment.

“It would appear that technician level training across the colleges could benefit from a better coordination and policy guidance given that the demand for training places is very high nevertheless.” In a recent interview with WeekendPost, Minister of Basic Education Dr Unity Dow contended that part of the problem regarding technical colleges’ enrolment was the perception formed on them. She is said there is a need to brand them so that they become attractive.

FUTURE OF TERTIARY EDUCATION FUNDING

In 2016, Madigele told the Tertiary Education Pitso organised by the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) that Botswana, like many other countries faced the challenge of tertiary education financing occasioned in part by what he called “massification”: a massive increase in tertiary education enrolment; ever increasing costs; equally important competing priorities and dwindling financial resources.

The minister indicated that although government had in recent years talked about cost sharing at tertiary education, it is not a decision his ministry has taken yet. Madigele said currently the government avails sponsorship to 10 000 students on average out of a possible 25 000 who graduate from Botswana General Certificate for Secondary Education (BGCSE). He said, because government wants to increase access to tertiary education, it means other measures have to be put in place to make it sustainable.

“This format of sponsorship alone cannot be able to sponsor all the students. One option is income contingent loans, which means students will start paying the loans once they start working after graduation,” he said. “This will be a form of cost-sharing because the students will be able to pay back the money once they start working.” The government is also considering doing away with the grant loan scheme, which means they should be other options for financing other programmes which are not necessarily part of the one considered to be seriously in demand.

“You will find out that sometimes a student has passion for music or dancing, and they have not scored good marks but want to pursue their passion. We are thinking of introducing government guaranteed loans in partnership with private banks to be able to provide these kinds of loans to these individuals, which is allowing people to diversify what they want to do,” he said.

Dr Madigele hinted on engaging other stakeholders, including Ministry of Finance about the possibility of using Government Employee Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Guaranteed Scheme (GEMVAS) to also include education financing as part of the scheme.
Government has admitted to failing to recover sponsorship loans from employees who benefited from the government grant loan scheme. It is estimated that government is owed billions of pula in unrecovered loans. Due to failure by government to put mechanism in place, Dr Madigele said, government is currently recovering about P20 million annually.    

“We need to put in place legislative framework that will facilitate Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF) to be able to recover loans. As of now the system is not in place; DTEF does not have the necessary legal instruments, for instance, there is no law that forces employers to declare employees who were government sponsored and how much they earn,” he said. “We also need to create a one-stop centre like Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) to be able to collect data and be able to track those who are working and paying taxes.”

He said it is not easy to change the government machinery as it takes a long time because changing one law may result in other laws being changed as well. Following the creation of HRDC, the mandate of tertiary education funding was transferred from DTEF to the HRDC, which was known previously as Tertiary Education Council (TEC).

Madigele has also dismissed any possibility of free education in Botswana at tertiary level as well as possibility of allowance increment due to government’s desire to increase access to tertiary education. He also noted that the economy is not performing well, which makes it difficult for government to consider allowance increment for tertiary students.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021
Kebonang

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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Boko-Khama axis viewed with suspicion

25th January 2021
boko-and-khama

President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.

While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.

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