Minister of Education and Skills Development Dr Unity Dow has conceded that government is underfunding basic education hence a contributing factor to the country’s low enrolment in tertiary education.
Dow revealed this at the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) dinner on Thursday in which she was bidding farewell to the organisation’s board. Dr Dow said time has come for government to re-look into how it funds education. “We are spending little on basic education and there is need to re-look into this because without it [basic education] we will not have the quantity that we need for tertiary education,” she said.
While acknowledging the new board led by Mr Batho Molomo, Dow challenged them to deliberate over the matter of basic education funding with the view of advising government.
Over the past six years, Botswana’s education system has been plunged into various crises as a result of stand –off between government and the unions. As a result the pupil’s results at levels, primary and secondary have been in a declining state. Poor performance in the Botswana General Certificate for Secondary Education (BGCSE) means that only a few qualify to study for tertiary education. “About 9000 students only qualified for tertiary education this year, and the rest were left in the lurch,” said Dow.
The minister pointed out that it is evident that the current situation can only be turned around by increasing funding for basic education to enhance the performance of pupils and meet the demand for tertiary education enrolment.
Ministry of Education and Skills Development have continued to receive the lion share in national budget. For the 2015/16 financial year, Ministry of Education was awarded P10.31 billion or 28.1 per cent of the budget. Besides staff salaries and emoluments the largest provision is goes to funding student bursaries for tertiary level studies at P2.25 billion.
Dow also said the time has arrived for Botswana’s education system to produce products that can excel in different sectors of the economy and change the country’s fortunes from being buyers and sellers to an economy of manufacturers.
Earlier this year MoESD launched a five-year strategic plan known as Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP 2015-2020) which is intended transform Botswana from overdependence on resources to a knowledge-based society able to sustain its development.
Dow thanked the inaugural HRDC board as he noted that he understand that it was not easy being referred to as interim board because they had limited authority to do certain things. “There were serious and complicated things to deal with during your tenure,” she said.
The former High Court judge told the new board that there is an ill-conceived idea that the role of HRDC is to refuse to issue licence to organisations which want to offer tertiary education. “It is wrong, your job is not to refuse with licenses, and instead you should facilitate the issuance of licenses,” she said.
Dow said it is the role of the HRDC to ensure that equal access to education by every citizen in the country.
Bidding the HRDC farewell, the former interim board Chairperson Dr Kegalalele Gasennelwe implored the new board to run their race and ensure that Botswana becomes a model of education in Africa.
Gasennelwe said it is not going to be easy but it was important for the board to show up and make their contribution to the country’s education system. “It is not going to be easy, but you should run your race and earn the crown,” she said.
The newly appointed board comprises of; Batho Molomo as the Chairperson, Moggie Mbaakanyi, former Assistant Minister of Education as vice chairperson, founding CEDA CEO Dr Thapelo Matsheka, Seilaneng Godisang, Dr Grace Kgakge-Tabengwa, Sebetlela Sebetlela, Dr Raphael Dingalo, Serty Leburu, Michelle Adelman, Helen Chilisa, Ruth Maphorisa, Kebosweditse Ntebela, Kelapile Ndobano and HRDC Acting CEO Dr Patrick Molutsi as ex-officio member.
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.