Minister of Education, Skills Development, Dr Unity Dow
Partial investigations on the declining pass rates at primary, junior and secondary schools and the state of affairs in the education sector have unearthed wasteful expenditure running into millions of pula, cronyism and mediocrity at the Ministry of Education Skills Development (MoESD).
Early last year, the Ministry was said to have launched a committee of inquiry to self-probe the declining pass rates at primary, junior and secondary schools and the state of affairs in the education in the country.
The investigation came at a time when President Lt Gen Ian Khama decided to send cabinet ministers, including him, permanent secretaries and their deputies across the country to compile an audit on the state of schools.
However, last year, partial investigations of the then Deputy Permanent Secretary Mr. Montshiwa assigned at the ministry as part of measures to improve efficiency is said to have unearthed serious irregularities affecting the overall operations of the Ministry.
The Ministry is said to have lost millions of pula through book publishing companies operating in collusion with headmasters, ministry officials and Tender Committees at the Ministry. Some Ministry staff are said to have been on the payrolls of some unscrupulous publishers while some actually being shadowy book writers themselves creating a serious conflict of interest which went undetected for years.
Sources familiar to the work of the Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS) say some headmasters were allegedly creating artificial shortages of some text books in schools in order to create business for book publishers who in turn paid them kickbacks. Last year a lot of books that were deliberately hidden in some schools, were recovered by the Montshiwa led team saving the ministry millions of pula.
The work of the deputy permanent secretary is said to have unsettled textbook “tenderpreneurs” who are now threatened with bankruptcy as a result of tightened measures in book orders implemented late last year.
Other areas that the DPS was yet to investigate were allegations in the photocopying/printing system in schools. Reports state that companies in cohorts with some senior staff in the ministry were overcharging in maintenance services on the copier machines.
These charges were passed for payment to the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) without detection and the scales of losses are not yet ascertained but run into millions of pula. The Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC) is currently investigating allegations of inappropriate procurement of heavy duty machines at the Ministry.
A hushed campaign calling for “#@bring back Montshiwa” is said to be gaining traction at the ministry as concerned staff feel he represents the only hope to fix the problem.
Some senior management staff spoken to, by the Weekend Post say Mr. Montshiwa was slowly getting to the bottom of these problems but his withdrawal has worsened the ministry’s situation
The ministry’s woes have been further compounded by a new Minister and a new Permanent Secretary who are unfamiliar with the workings of the Ministry, but unfortunately are dependent on the guidance of the same old staff that are part of greedy cohorts operating at the ministry.
The opposition leader Duma Boko recently said in a statement to parliament that the declining performance of the education system has far reaching implications for the country. Beyond the obvious fact that the poor performance means that the country may not be able to produce the human resources robust enough to drive economic development, therefore, national security implications for the position of education as the greatest equalizer.
The 2014 Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education Examination results released by the Botswana Examinations Council, (BEC) indicate there were 37, 384 candidates who sat for the examination. Candidates in full time attendance in Government schools numbered 25, 186 while 2, 936 were in full time attendance at privately owned schools.
The remaining 9, 266 were private candidates, (i.e. independent learners and students from BOCODOL as well as back-to-school candidates.) Overly, these figures represented a 9.73% increase in the number of candidates compared to the previous year.â€¨â€¨Of the total students who sat the 2014 examination, only 5, 796 obtained Grade C or better. This represents only 25.75% pass rate.
The rest of the candidates obtained Grade D or below. The overall results have been declining since 2006. For instance, in 2013, the performance for Government schools at Grade C or better had declined by 2.02%.â€¨â€¨In terms of overall school performance, the story emerging from government owned schools is rather alarming. Schools in major cities and towns perform better than those in rural and remote areas.
For example, St. Joseph’s College tops the list at 38% pass rate for 2014.
The same school was on top again in 2013 at a somewhat similar pass rate. â€¨Shakawe Senior Secondary School a government school, in the far North West District, once again sat at the bottom of the ladder with a pass rate of just 7% as was the case last year. Its pass rate has not improved in any significant way at all.
A committee of inquiry to probe the declining pass rates at primary, junior and secondary schools and the state of affairs in the education sector was supposed to have been established to investigate the Ministry’s problems.
WeekendPost established that a committee of inquiry tasked with drafting the terms of reference was supposed to have been headed by University of Botswana academic, Professor Bagele Chilisa. â€¨â€¨Stakeholders to sit on the committee were to include the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development and members from public service unions.
â€¨â€¨It was understood then that after completion of the terms of reference the Ministry was supposed to float an advert inviting Consultancy Company to conduct an inquiry into the decline of the pass rate in schools and other challenges currently facing the ministry. â€¨â€¨The consultancy company was going to be reporting to Chilisa’s committee.
The consults was going to investigate the core of the problems as they varied between vacant teaching posts, syllabus and the standard of classrooms, teachers’ welfare among others things.â€¨â€¨The Ministry of Education has, in the 2014 national budget, been given a lion’s share – 29 percent – of overall public expenditure during the forthcoming, 2014-15, financial year, with the Ministry alone being allocated P 9.26 billion in recurrent expenditure. â€¨â€¨
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.