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Education loses millions of pula as cartels raid

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.

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%.

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. 
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. 

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. 



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. 

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.

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. 



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When talking at the handing over ceremony, Chull-Joo Park, said they agreed with BRCS to give out e-learning equipment to better the training skills of students living with disabilities.

“With the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment and job training skills, we will be able to help the students living with disabilities to do e-learning and to better their education and job training,” said Chull-Joo Park.

It was revealed that the South Korean Embassy approached BRCS with the intent to donate equipment and educational material that includes an embroidery machine, photo copier machine, tablets and interactive boards to be utilized by the trainees.

The industrial printer is a machine that works with embroidery machine to print designs for clothing and it will enable the learners to have more material available to them to facilitate learning.

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Smart board gadgets will provide the students with an elevated learning process to be fostered by e-learning. The gadgets provide a more visual element to the learning process, which in turn improves learner mental retention.

Tlamelong Rehabilitation serves the marginalized and underserved less privileged persons living with disability in Botswana. The center offers boarding services, vocational training, social services, physiotherapy and rehabilitation services for young people living disabilities aged 18-35 from across the country over a period of two (2) years per cohort which has a maximum intake capacity of 35. BRCS through International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have managed to create great working synergy with the South Korean Embassy in Pretoria based in South Africa to support or augment the National Society’s Rehabilitation Centre’s learning challenges.

For his part, BRSC Secretary General Kutlwano Mokokomani said they are delighted to convey their gratitude as BRSC to the South Korean Embassy for donation and they look forward to an enduring partnership for such worthy causes.

“South Korean Embassy’s great gesture will enable trainees to thrive, to fulfil their dreams to become a reality as this equipments will go a long way in creating great impact in the lives of trainees and their families. We wish to convey our sincere gratitude to the South Korean Embassy for their noble gesture of donating the E-learning equipments.”

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