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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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”