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Botswana needs P3 bn for classroom shortage crisis – World Bank

A Public Expenditure Review (PER) assessment on Basic Education carried out by World Bank has outlined a litany of problems bedevilling Botswana’s education sector, key among them —acute shortage of infrastructure that will require at least P3 billion to address — and over supply of teaching personnel.

The PER, commissioned by the treasury in Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and Ministry of Basic Education (MOBE) was carried out by World Bank in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with the objective of reviewing public education spending and evaluate its contribution to providing quality education that meets the needs of the society and labour market.

The PER assessed the adequacy and sustainability of public spending in education, the efficiency and effectiveness of public resources, and the equity of education expenditures and whether or not they support disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. The assessment arrived at a conclusion that majority of the problems faced by the country’s education system and its expenditure are already outlined in previous whitepapers commissioned by government such as the 1994 Revised National Policy on Education ( RNPE), and the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (2015-2020).

However, the World Bank has advised government to shift focus from training teaching personnel to spending on critical needs in infrastructure development and provision of text books in public schools. According to the report, there are 8,553 unemployed teachers in MOBE’s human resources system, a number which represents 30 percent of all teachers currently employed.

In addition, more than 3,000 students with education qualifications graduate annually, the report indicated, further highlighting that only around 260 teachers per year will reach retirement age in the next five years, out of which more than 80 percent are primary school teachers (since the rapid secondary expansion happened more recently).  Only 4,479 teachers were appointed in the last four calendar years, an annual intake of only 1,120 teachers, or 4.0 percent of current employment, said the report.

“There is a massive oversupply of teachers in subjects such as English, Setswana, history, and geography. These subject areas have waiting lists for teachers that are close to ten years,” said the report. World Bank urged government to improve the recruitment, deployment, and management of teachers. “To address the oversupply of teachers, an analysis of the demand and supply of teachers should be undertaken and reduce the number of scholarships to student teachers in non-core subjects,” said the report.


“There is also a need to develop a teacher recruitment policy, adopt professional standards in the teaching profession, and redesign the deployment process for teachers to ensure that they only serve in remote areas for a limited period of time.” The report however noted that almost all primary and pre-primary teachers have found jobs, while more than 2,200 Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) teacher aids remain unemployed, despite a shortage of teachers in community-based early childhood development centres.

“Shift the emphasis from hiring more teachers to improving the quality of school infrastructure and ensuring the availability of teaching and learning materials in classrooms. At a minimum, there should be adequate classrooms of good quality to accommodate all children in Botswana, both for core subjects and electives,” recommended World Bank. Teacher salaries constitute the largest part of the budget for school education while the wage bill represents the largest cost in Botswana’s education system because of the large number of teachers and relatively attractive salaries, indicated the report.

 “Only 63 percent of recurrent spending is on teacher salaries, which is lower than expected. Another 9 percent, approximately, is spent on salaries of regional officials and support staff in schools by MOBE and the MLGRD combined. “This leaves 28 percent spent on goods and services, of which close to half is likely on food. Without food expenditure, the share of teacher salaries rises to about 70 percent of total education spending, and overall personnel costs would constitute around 80 percent of recurrent costs.

With JC results consistently poor, the World Bank has made a startling observation that secondary education is likely to expand as education quality improves, but it will put strain on available infrastructure and education expenditure.  This expansion in enrolment will be combined with a rise in the average cost of education per student due to a larger (and more expensive) share of secondary students in enrolment, said the report, indicating that an improvement in the quality of education could lead to a greater flow of students to Form 4 and 5.

“Currently, total enrolment in these two grades is only 65 percent of enrolment in Form 3, as students continue to underperform on the JCE. An increase in education quality could lead to more students passing the JCE and advancing to higher education levels,” indicated the report. “For example, an increase in the enrolment rate in Forms 1-2 of only 1 percentage point per annum would lead to around 8,000 more students in these grades over a ten-year period at a cost of P144 million.”

However, according to the report, eliminating the classroom shortage will require significant public resources. It would cost around P950 million to build the required 1,900 classrooms in primary schools (based on the ETSSP’s average cost per classroom of P0.5 million), and the Department of Technical Services within MOBE estimates construction and maintenance needs at P2 083 million in secondary education.

“Assuming a ten-year period to eliminate the backlog of classrooms and purchasing additional textbooks, annual recurrent costs would likely increase by around P300 million, and the annual development budget would increase by an estimated P600 million,” World Bank said.
In the context of Botswana’s public finances, the challenge faced by policymakers is not related to reducing spending but rather on increasing efficiency, argued the Bretton Woods institution.

World Bank has indicated that the large number of subjects and the proliferation of electives in secondary schools increase the cost of education. “There are concerns that too many subjects can be detrimental to performance because students only get exposed to core subjects for a limited period of time,” said the report.  “While a large number of subjects contributes to the country’s low ST-rates, it also raises costs. In 2017, 3,904 out of 4,777 teachers in secondary schools only taught one subject, 477 teachers taught two subjects, and 63 teaches three subjects, while the final 332 teachers did not teach at all.

GOV’T TOLD TO IMPELEMENT ETSSP RECOMMENDATIONS

The World Bank policy recommendations are similar to many of those in the ETSSP, which were based on a thorough examination of the many challenges facing Botswana’s education system.  “While most of the recommendations made in the ETSSP have not been implemented due to lack of funding, the government should prioritize their implementation, as they can have a positive impact the country’s education system,” said the report.

FRAGMENTED DECISION MAKING IN EDUCATION SECTOR

World Bank report was not kind to the country’s budgeting systems as well as centralised decision making, noting that responsibilities in the education sector are divided among various ministries, resulting in a lack of financial prioritisation and strategic planning. The report indicated that most of the recurrent education budget is located within MOBE (of which a majority is for personnel costs of teachers and staff at the ministry and regional education offices), while a smaller part falls under the MLGRD (for primary school stationery, feeding programs, etc.).

The development budget is also split between the MLGRD, which is responsible for the construction of primary classrooms and schools, and MOBE, which is responsible for the financing of secondary schools and classrooms (construction is managed by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development). “This fragmentation of the budgetary process makes it almost impossible to determine the allocation of education spending for each category and prioritize accordingly,” contented the report.

World Bank advises Government to create a budget process that makes it possible to prioritise different categories of education spending which includes costs of personnel, construction of schools and classrooms, teacher training, and other quality inputs. “Re-design the budget process for secondary schools and regional offices. It is important to strengthen the budgetary autonomy of regional offices and schools in order to increase accountability, which will require making the budgetary process more transparent and encouraging regions and schools to submit realistic budget requests,” the report said.

“This can be done by setting realistic indicative ceilings for budget requests and requiring special motivation for expenditures above the ceiling (as it is done in the national budget). Regional offices and schools should be able to decide their own priorities in their initial budget allocation, and the scope for transferring funds (virement) between spending categories should be increased while ensuring adequate funding for food and maintenance.

World Bank report is of the view that the budget split between recurrent and development expenditure is further complicated by the divide in responsibilities between MOBE, which budgets for the construction of secondary schools and classrooms, and the MLGRD, which budgets for the same activities at primary schools. “This makes it difficult to ensure that the classroom shortage receives sufficient attention. In addition, the actual building of secondary schools and classrooms is split between two ministries,” said the report.

“The MOBE builds and maintains Junior Secondary Schools and classrooms, while Senior Secondary Schools are built and maintained by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development with a budget from MOBE. “Therefore, it is vital to strengthen the cooperation between MOBE, the MLGRD, and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development to increase funding for and improve the planning and budgeting of school and classroom construction.’

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021
Kebonang

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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Boko-Khama axis viewed with suspicion

25th January 2021
boko-and-khama

President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.

While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.

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