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Gov’t to re-look at basic education funding

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.

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Dingake talks about gay rights in tribute to Kirby

11th January 2022
Dingake

Former High Court Judge Professor Key Dingake has made his opinion known about gay rights in a glowing tribute to his retired former colleague Justice Ian Kirby.

Late last month a panel of Court of Appeal (CoA) led by Judge Kirby upheld a 2019 High Court ruling that decriminalised same-sex relations and stroke down two sections in the penal code. In his seminal judgment, Justice Kirby said these sections served only to incentivize law enforcement agents to become keyhole peepers and intruders into the private space of citizens.

In this case one Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a homosexual had instituted an application in the High Court challenging the constitutionality of Sections 164 (a) and 164 (c).

Paying tribute to Justice Kirby, Justice Dingake said overall the Kirby court was restrained and brilliant in its genre of conservatism. Judge Dingake said the case of Motshidiemang is evidence of the latter. “In a stroke of a pen, he ended the long and tortuous road to equality of gay people.

I was reminded of this long and tortuous road by a piece written by, Zackie Achmat, that indefatigable human right defender, recently, when he reflected on a union of gay men, one Khoi and the other a Dutch sailor, way back in 1735, who for their love for each other were brutally murdered,” Justice Dingake said.

He said in truth Botswana’s Constitution never denied the right to equality for gay men. It was society and the judges who did – some arguing that the time is not right to extend equality rights to gay persons – forgetting the self-evident truth that we are all born equal and that rights are not negotiable – not even with Judges.

“It ought to be remembered that the Motshidiemang case was similar to the case of Kanani that preceded it. Justice Kirby was part of the panel that sat in Kanani. In Kanani he agreed with the other Justices and refused to strike down the offensive legislation. The same legislation he struck down in Motshidiemang.

There is no doubt in my mind that Kanani was wrongly decided at the time, as several of my writings thereafter contended, having regard to the legal injunction to always interpret constitutional rights liberally and to treat the constitution as a living organism,” Justice Dingake wrote.

He added that in Kanani the Court of Appeal held back “our march to freedom for more than a decade – and perpetuated the suffering of gay persons as their being was criminalized based on an inaccurate and narrow reading of the Constitution”.

The truth of the matter is that, he said, our Constitution never denied gay persons the rights to equality and the right not to be discriminated against. “Some sections of society (may be the majority) and the bench did so. The bench did so because of the choices they exercised.

They chose to interpret the constitution restrictively, which is not permissible; they chose to be blown away by ‘public opinion’, which was not right, and they chose not read: ‘sexual orientation’, into section 15 of the constitution, which they could have done.”

Botswana’s Constitution he said commands that it be interpreted in a manner that saves humanity from the scourge of indignity – and with a sense of the future – and to secure the rights of generations yet to be born. It is always the duty of Judges to breathe life into the Constitution – and to effect the promise of the Constitution – by among other things rejecting the tyranny of the majority.

“Section 3, the principal section conferring fundamental human rights in Botswana has always been there. It was ignored in Kanani, and thankfully given effect to in Motshidiemang.  A big lesson here is the often overlooked fact: Judges matter! Who the Judge is may be life changing in any given matter.

When one considers the decision in Kanani and Motshidiemang, based on similar facts and the diametrically opposed conclusions, one may be given to think that may be: ‘the constitution is what the Judges say it is’, at any given time, as that brilliant luminary judge and scholar, Charles Evans Hughes (1862 -1948) LLD, once ruminated.”

Interestingly, Judge Dingake wrote about homosexuality more than 12 years ago in his book ‘Key Aspects of the Constitutional Law of Botswana’. Justice Dingake expressed his views on what was said then to what was said in the recent judgment.

In that book, he began the debate by stating that homosexual issues are not frequently debate in Botswana. “Empirically, the extent of homosexual tendencies is not known. In any event the phenomenon does not appear to be widespread,” the Judge wrote.

He said serious debate however cropped up sometime around August 1995, after president Robert Mugabe’s much publicized anti homosexuals speech at the Harare International Book Show. Even then, he said, the debate was only confined to a small circle of intellectuals, with the broader community generally contemptuous and not willing to engage in serious debate about the issue.

“Although the intellectual community is by no means unanimous, there are some voices, particularly emanating from the University of Botswana, that are calling for equal treatment for homosexuals. Despite the enormous capacity of such arguments to court controversy general response of the public was one of cynicism. This general lack of interest among the general populace contrasts sharply with the enthusiasm and interest on the issue, just across the border, in South Africa, where there are numerous homosexual associations,” he said.

He explained that the South African Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which has paved the way for homosexuals to be employed in the army, an advance that is unparalleled in modern democracies. He also explained that Botswana’s criminal law prohibits consenting adults of the same sex from having a sexual relationship, because that is said to be unnatural.

“Within the framework of Botswana’s Constitution there can be no doubt that the prohibition of sexual relationships between consenting male adults of the same sex is unconstitutional. No free society can, in this era, afford to treat its citizens differently on the basis that is patently irrational.

Every individual, is in terms of the Constitution equal before law and has the right of equal benefit of the law without discrimination. The legal recognition of homosexuals will confirm Botswana as a democratic country that is advancing with time.”

He added that it needs to be said that it is however fruitless to bury “our heads in the sand and hope the issue will disappear for good”. He concluded: “In time we will have to confront the issue head on. In time blind prejudice that stigmatizes homosexual relationships will have to stand up to rational scrutiny. It is advisable not too turn a blind eye to the pain of discrimination suffered by few of our fellow countrymen and women. In a democracy it is unacceptable that the majority should oppress the minority”.

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Electricity prices could go up

11th January 2022
BERA CEO - Rose Seretse

Consumers could pay more for electricity this year, as the government owned power producer, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) plans to increase prices for electricity by 5% with effect from the 1st of April 2022.

BPC recent statement on tariff adjustment shows that with the planned 5% increase in electricity tariffs, electricity prices per kWh could increase by 111 thebe for household users, 226 thebe for government, 148 thebe for commercial businesses and 111 thebe for the mining sector.

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Botswana GDP in upward trajectory as economy recovers

11th January 2022
Peggy Serame & President Masisi

Botswana economy is registering growth as the country emerges from one of its worsts economic recessions since independence, following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

In late December 2021 Statistics Botswana released the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures for the third quarter of 2021.

The nominal GDP for the third quarter of 2021 was P49, 260.5 million compared to P48, 684.0 million registered during the previous quarter. This represents a quarterly increase of 1.2 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.

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