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.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.