Although the total public expenditure on the education sector has continued to attract a significant share, at least 22 percent of total government expenditure over the years, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation at Vision 2016, Dr Pelotshweu Moepeng is concerned that the money is not reflecting on the economy.
Dr Moepeng notes there is little evidence on the ground that funds spent on this high share of budget is spent on the local economy. He says the high education share in total government expenditure should be justified by jobs creation.
“Initially most of the funds a large proportion of the expenditure, about 20 per cent was spent on local and external placing for tertiary education. However, even after more local tertiary institutions are available, as complemented by private universities, education spending is not observed as stimulating the local economy,” he states.
According to a paper he authored to reflect on the Vision Pillar of An Educated and Informed Nation, Moepeng says in recent years, it has been found that home grown school feeding initiatives at primary school level are providing vital market to local farmers produce, especially in the first quarter of the year.
“It could be assumed that as the education sector remains the dominant government priority in terms of spending, this sector could generate direct jobs in the teaching sector, and indirect jobs in IT, furniture manufacturing and maintenance, transport sector, rentals, agriculture and others,” he writes.
The Director of When it comes to teachers’ accommodation in rural areas, government prefers to build houses for its staff instead of promoting the private sector property market and rent much good accommodation available, in the villages.
Milestones – Enrolments and Literacy rate The main objective of the paper was to outline the major success of the Vision 2016 long-term national plan objectives in the education sector and highlight priority issues that require the national debate to bring out the best ideas necessary to pitch the country to the next level and contribute to the efforts made to develop the next long-term plan.
At the time the Vision 2016 was initiated, access to basic education was a challenge in Botswana as was a problem of gender balance in different aspects of our education system, quality of education and exclusion of some sections of the population particularly in the settlements officially known as Remote Areas.
Moepeng notes that there is an increase in basic education enrolment and ensuring that every child in Botswana has access to basic education, and that the capacity of the education system is equipped to provide adequate and quality education.
“Currently the literacy rates among the youth is above 95 per cent and comparable to other countries in the middle income level. Botswana’s performance in youth literacy rates compares well to other middle income countries like South Africa, Malaysia and is way above Namibia.
Even though Botswana had the lowest youth literacy rates in the 1990s, her performance has improved from just below 85 per cent to the current more than 95 per cent. Overall, access to basic education from primary to junior secondary is guaranteed to most children in Botswana and this is major success of the Vision 2016. However, there remain pockets of children in Botswana who remain excluded from access to basic education, especially in the Ghanzi District.
Moepeng writes: “This situation has proved difficult to address despite many interventions that include boarding primary schools, parents’ involvement and persuasion, provision of both morning and evening meals to entice children, and out of school children programmes in schools. More work, especially in the social discipline studies need to be intensified to address this problem.”
Gender Balance According to Dr Moepeng’s paper, the gender balance in enrolments at in the basic education have generally been achieved across the country and by the year 2002, girls accounted for over half of gross enrolment in primary and secondary schools which was consistent with the demographic characteristics by gender (MFDP and UNDP, 2004; and CSO, 2001). Although prior to 1996, enrolments in Teacher Training Colleges was dominated by females, following the introduction of the Vision 2016, more and more males enrolled at teacher Training Colleges, which could have improved the gender balance in the trained teaching cadre.
Automatic Progression and Quality of Education Outcomes One of the major outcomes of high preference for education spending is increased transition rates from standard seven to secondary education. Moepeng says this has increased the overall number of years of schooling for many children in Botswana.
However, he notes that as many of these automatically transfer from primary to secondary education, irrespective of their performance in primary school education, it turns out that in recent years; there has been an increase in failure rate at secondary school level. Moepeng says the automatic transition from primary to secondary could be a major contributor increased failure rate in secondary education, as students who fail primary education are not immediately addressed by a selection process that includes improving the quality of students before they enter secondary education.
Education Content biased to Humanities and Social Sciences “Our education system remains dominated by the social sciences in terms of enrolment at tertiary education. This could imply that the target is not yet diverted from producing officers for employment in the civil service -an objective that was meant to replace expatriate workers in the civil service with locals,” writes Dr Moepeng.
Moepeng says the civil service is nearly 100 per cent localised, and the objectives of economic diversification require an educated and skilled nation that is ready to compete in the global economy.
“We should therefore reflect and re-assess the global demand of goods and services, to be in a position to promote the education of those services that are readily in demand. In the humanities for instance, one could open wider job choice opportunities by learning one of the most used Chinese languages,” he says.
Performance measurement and lack of relevant data Dr Moepeng indicates that available data on the education sector is not complete and sometimes limiting even when it is available to facilitate reasonable analysis for purpose of informed decision making.
“First, there is no historical data that is publicly available for use in monitoring and evaluation, which is comprehensive enough for researchers to measure the performance of the education sector effectively. For instance, there are issues of changes in syllabus and curricular that is possibly not accounted for in the data available, and some administrative decisions that can affect teaching and learning outcomes that might not be accommodated in the education data.”
He further notes that in some cases, the data is not decomposed in a manner that allows comparison of performance between rural and urban, private and public schools, education level of heads of schools and others variables necessary to enable adequate description of characters that influence performance.
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.
Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.
This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.
He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.
Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”
He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.
Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.
“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.
In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”
In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.
He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.” Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.
Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.
He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”
Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.
“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.
“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said. Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.
Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.