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.’
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.