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Education cuts billion Pula of tertiary spend

The Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology has drastically reduced the number of students who will be sponsored during the 2017/2018 financial year for both local public and private institutions.


Only 3 897 students will be sponsored this year, a record low in recent years. Last year a report, titled “Tertiary Education at a Glance” published by the HRDC, indicated that government’s decision through its policy to sponsor students in registered private tertiary institutions in the country has resulted in significant involvement of the private sector in the provision of tertiary education.


The report stated that the enrolment at tertiary level had almost doubled, rising from 31 129 in the 2007/08 financial year to 60 583 in the 2014/15 financial year. During the 2014/15 financial year, out of the 60 583 students enrolled in tertiary institutions, private tertiary institutions accounted for 42.6 percent of the students. A drastic growth experienced by almost all private institutions.


Since the Tertiary Education Policy (TEP) was approved by parliament in April 2008, a total expenditure of over P2 billion was spent on student tuition fees and allowances. The projections also indicated that private institutions would be enrolling more students than public schools.


However, this progress has seen government taking a different stand in tertiary education financing. In the last three years the number of students sponsored in both public and private has been declining against expected growth. Last year Minister of Tertiary Education, Dr Alfred Madigele told the Tertiary Education Financing Pitso organised by the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) that the current tertiary education funding model used by government is not sustainable.


Madigele told the Pitso that Botswana, like many other countries face 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.


In their effort to achieve prosperity for all and accumulating an educated and an informed nation, the government seems rather to be moving in a reverse gear as many continue to be chopped off the cycle of the government’s expectation. The decline in the number of students in the financial year 2016/2017 who will be receiving a portion of their sponsorship will leave out a lot of potential candidates despite the fact that they are eligible or have obtained an excellent number of cut-off points.
 

This is because the pass rate of Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) has declined gradually. In 2015, 6291 pupils passed their examinations compared to 6368 pupils in 2016, which is the latest examination sitting.  
“Government has traditionally been the sole sponsor of tertiary education students. We have provided loans and grants to students to cover both tuition and students’ upkeep. In addition, the Government provides 100% funding to the public tertiary institutions to meet both their recurrent and development expenditure,” he said.


“The sponsorship evolved overtime from a bursary to a grant/loan scheme where beneficiaries were expected to contribute towards the cost of their training through recovery.” Madigele explained that in 1995, under the bursary scheme, sponsorship was availed to everyone and graduates were expected to pay 5% of their initial salary at the time they started, tied to the duration of the programme. Whereas under the grant/loan scheme, sponsorship was availed to all those who completed senior secondary school and could find admission to local public tertiary institutions.

Botswana is the highest spender on education in proportion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the region but remains inferior to countries like South Africa, Namibia and Mauritius in terms of access to tertiary education. According to the HRDC, there are many students who are eligible for tertiary education but do not have access to it. HRDC has recommended that the Ministry of Education expands the current system in order to meet the rising demand.


The Global Competiveness Report, compiled by World Economic Forum has also repeatedly stated that Botswana’s enrolment remains lower by international standards especially for an upper-middle income country. In the 2014/15 report Botswana was ranked 114 out of 144 countries in the world, while Finland has been consistently ranked higher than almost all competing economies


As per the government admission, the upcoming generation will have to pay for government’s failure to recover scholarship loans from students who were previously sponsored by government. “Need I point out at this juncture that our recovery efforts have not been the best and I think I will be correct to say we could be having amongst our midst here, individuals who still have not paid back. In addition, Government provides 100% funding to the public tertiary institutions to meet both their recurrent and development expenditure,” he noted.


A plan by then Ministry of Education with Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) died a natural death. The initial idea, which was the brainchild of then Director of Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF) Marcos Maedza, was for BURS to track all taxpaying individuals who are beneficiaries of government sponsorship and have them start paying what they owe to government. BURS was to be the custodian of recovery of scholarship loans.


Due to this decline there is a likelihood of a restructuring in tertiary institutions as many lecturers and service providers are likely to be retrenched. A number of tertiary institutions, including the University of Botswana (UB) since last year were forced to lay-off both their academic and support staff. At the beginning of this year, Limkokwing University retrenched 80 employees, with school authorities explaining that the decision to do so was necessitated by the general decline in enrolment experienced by the entire tertiary education sector.

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The resolution by the CC, which Masisi proposed, is viewed as a ploy to deflate the incumbent, Mpho Balopi’s political ambitions and send him into political obscurity. The two have not been on good terms since the 2019 elections, and the fallout has been widening despite attempts to reconcile them. In essence, the BDP says that Balopi, who is currently a Member of Parliament, Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, and a businessman, is overwhelmed by the role.

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Moitoi’s application follows the Secretary-General’s launch of the third edition of the Global Call for Heads and Deputy Heads of United Nations Field Missions, which aims to expand the pool of candidates for the positions of SRSG) and their deputies to advance gender parity and geographical diversity at the most senior leadership level in the field. These mission leadership positions are graded at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General levels.

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