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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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Free at last: Ian Kirby Speaks Out

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WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?

Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.

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Civil society could rescue Botswana’s flawed democracy’ 

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Bangwato in Serowe — where Bamagwato Paramount Chief and former President Lt. Gen Ian Khama originates – disagree on whether they must send a delegation to dialogue with President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s family in Moshupa. Just last week, a meeting was called by the Regent of Bamagwato, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, at Serowe Kgotla to, among others, update the tribe on the whereabouts of their Kgosi (Khama). 

Further, his state of health was also discussed, with Kgamane telling the attendees that all is well with Khama. The main reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the escalating tension between Khama and Masisi — a three-year bloodletting going unabated.

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