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.
Following their loss to the Duma Boko-led lobby in the Botswana National Front (BNF)’s national congress last month, some members of the party are reportedly considering forming a new political party.
According to members, the new party will be formed after they receive a tip-off that the BNF will do all it can to ensure that the aggrieved members do not participate in the 2024 national elections. This will reportedly done through a carefully orchestrated primary elections elimination campaign.
Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.
Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.
She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”
Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.
On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.
“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.
One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.
The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”
The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.
Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.
Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.