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Tertiary education funding not sustainable – Minister

Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Alfred Madigele has recently told the Tertiary Education Financing Pitso recently that the current tertiary education funding model used by government is not sustainable.

Madigele told the Pitso organised by the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) 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.

The minister however highlighted government’s obligation as envisaged by the Vision 2016 Pillar of an “Informed and Educated” and Pillar 2 of the recently launched Vision 2036: “Human and Social Development” which highlights that education and skills are the basis for human resource development.

“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.

“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 mist 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.

He said although those who could find admissions in private institutions had to sponsor themselves in the past, in 2007 government took a deliberate decision to sponsor students to private tertiary education institutions.

“As a result of this initiative, the total number of students both at public and private institutions who were sponsored by Government increased substantially,” he stated.

“While all this is desirable, it is not sustainable in view of other competing demands on Government and in light of the declining government revenues over the past five years.”

He remarked that financing tertiary education and the challenges it poses for governments have lately become a topical issue around the world.

“The search for better strategies for financing tertiary education has thus become a subject of wide discussions at forums involving international organizations among others, UNESCO, IMF, OECD and The World Bank,” he highlighted.

Madigele noted that the issue of tertiary education financing in the case of Botswana becomes a challenge in view of the ever-growing numbers of secondary school graduates who seek to access tertiary education.

The Tertiary Education Policy (2008) set the tertiary participation target for the 18 – 24 year olds for 2025 at 25% from the 11.4% rate in 2007/8.  Madigie, who is also Member of Parliament for Molapowabojang/Mmathete said considering the projected senior secondary school output at 30 points minimum entry grade for tertiary, it is possible that enough numbers could be raised to meet the 25% target.

“Given the challenges I mentioned earlier, the question that immediately follows,, however distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,, is: “whether Can the Government as the current sole sponsor of tertiary education can sustainably afford to pay for the continually increasing numbers”? he asked rhetorically.

Madigele expressed concern that the HRDC reports the total number of BGCSE and equivalent examinations graduates is projected to increase overtime.

“The challenge we face now is to diversify our tertiary education is to ensure optimality and sustainability of tertiary funding sources while pursuing the goals of increased access, equity and improved quality in the country’s tertiary education system,” he said.

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