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.’
Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.
The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.
The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh
The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.
It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.
The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.
Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.
Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.
For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.
Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.
The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.
The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.
In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.
This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.
The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.
These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.
Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.
Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.
According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.
It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.
Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.
Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.
For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.
However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”
The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.
“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.
These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.
“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.
With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.
The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.
Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.
The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.
In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.
According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.
Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.
Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.
Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.
It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.
The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.
Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.
Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.
This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.
The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.
The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.
After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.
At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.
The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.
A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.
Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”
Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.
At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019. It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.
In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.
“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.