Botswana has reversed a trend in which its school enrolment at all levels was predominantly male, with the country now being ranked 1st in the world alongside developed countries such as the United States, France, United Kingdom and most importantly Nordic countries.
Within a 10 year period, the country has managed to overhaul an unimpressive ranking, moving from 64th to 1st in the world, thanks to improved access to tertiary education, which has seen more females enrolling in colleges and universities. A Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) report authenticated by Statistics Botswana indicates that the number of female students have surpassed their male counterparts at all levels, with 57.9 percent of students in tertiary institutions in 2016 being female.
According to the Global Gender Index report released towards the end of 2016, Botswana is one of the countries doing well in ensuring that young women and men entering the labour force have almost identical levels of educational qualifications. The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress over time.
The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, education, health and political criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups. The rankings are designed to create global awareness of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them. The methodology and quantitative analysis behind the rankings are intended to serve as a basis for designing effective measures for reducing gender gaps
Botswana is; among 62 countries that have closed education gaps at primary; among the 90 countries that have closed education gaps at secondary education gaps, and also among the 95 countries that have closed education gaps at tertiary education level.
Boom and decline in tertiary enrolment
When Botswana attained independence in 1966, very few individuals were literate but over the decades, government has reversed the situation the most notable growth, especially at tertiary level being after 2006. Enrolment at tertiary level has almost doubled, rising from 31 129 in the 2007/08 financial year to 60 583 in the 2014/15 financial year. The increase in number of private tertiary institutions enrolling government sponsored students has been mainstay in the new trend.
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. 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 Ministry of Education expands the current system in order to meet the rising demand.
According to the HRDC Education 2016 Report, in recent years there has been a decline in the number of students enrolling in tertiary institutions. This can be attributed to plummeting Botswana General Certificate for Secondary Education (BGCSE) performance and introduction of priority programmes. Priority programmes policy, is a brainchild of HRDC geared towards informing government on which skills are needed by the industry, therefore influencing the number of students sponsored per programme.
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.
The HRDC report indicates that only 19.3 percent of the population aged between 18-24 are enrolled in tertiary institutions. The Gross Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (GTER) is an indicator used to measure participation in a given education system and indicates the capacity of the education system to accommodate all of its tertiary age group (18-24 years for Botswana).
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.