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Education system in Botswana deteriorating

Education system in Botswana deteriorating..

Access to and achievement in education in Botswana is said to be unequal. This is revealed in a new study by the United Nations, collaborating with other development partners and stakeholders. The report indicates that twenty thousand children in Botswana are not in school.

Children in marginalized communities have less access to education than their more affluent, urban peers. While primary education is free and compulsory under the Children’s Act, primary education is not free for children of foreign nationality. Moreover, cost barriers such as transport costs and materials such as textbooks place a higher burden on poorer families.

This report has been stated that limited awareness of the importance of Early Childhood Education (ECE) among policymakers has contributed to a lack of appropriate funding mechanisms, infrastructure, and equipment for ECE. The study indicated that only 30 per cent of children aged 3 to 6 years have access to preschool education, which remains driven by the private sector and therefore unaffordable for the less privileged. Children in remote areas especially have limited access to ECE.

This unequal access directly affects children’s (impoverished children’s) equal learning and cognitive development opportunities. The burden of unpaid childcare indirectly affects women’s ability to start a business, enter the labour force and access decent employment and professional training opportunities. Further, the poor and rural youth are more susceptible to dropping out of school or not registering for school.

It was also stressed that forty-nine per cent of the poorest youth finish school between ages 15–18 compared to 36 per cent among the richest. Distance from the school is a factor that limits the ability of children in rural areas to access education. Cost-sharing may be another factor for children in poor and rural families, the UN study said. Cost-sharing fees were introduced in 2006 and set at a level equivalent to 5 per cent of the cost to the Government of providing secondary education, with a provision for exemption for children from destitute families, orphans, students in need of care and registered with the Social Welfare Services and students whose parents are terminally ill and incapable of caring for the student materially low-income households.

Fees per child were set at BWP 300 a year for Junior Secondary and BWP 450 a year for Senior Secondary schools. Students from households whose total earnings are less than BWP 550 per month receive a partial exemption if they have more than one child in secondary school. UN highlighted that poorer students also fare less well in educational attainment: students from the wealthiest 25 per cent of households score on average 23 per cent higher than their peers from the poorest 25 per cent of households in reading and 15 per cent higher in math. Compared to other countries in the region, Botswana has a more significant gap in attainment across income groups.

In the three rounds of the international assessment programme carried out by the Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ), the difference between the average score and the score for the poorest quarter of students was only 17 points in Swaziland, 19 points in Lesotho, and 39 points in Namibia. However, it was a high of 68 points in Botswana, not far behind the 72 points in South Africa. Statelessness is another challenge for children accessing the education system since the lack of appropriate documentation makes it harder to register for school.

A significant number of children, the UN report stated, particularly children in remote areas and nomadic communities, refugee and asylum-seeking children, abandoned children and children living in alternative care institutions, face barriers in accessing birth registration, which negatively affects their right to a nationality and subsequently impedes the realization of other rights.

To prevent statelessness and reach universal registration, Botswana has been recommended to address administrative obstacles, expand health facility-based birth registration centres and mobile registration campaigns and raise awareness regarding the importance of birth registration. Asylum-seeking and refugee children face challenges in access to and attainment within education.

Children in the Dukwi camp receive basic education but cannot access higher learning institutions because the Government does not provide funding or support. There has been an increase in failure rates at secondary education final examinations since youth lack motivation about their future. Parents are prohibited from engaging in any form of work and are unable to provide funding for their children’s further education.

“There have been instances where students have forfeited scholarships offered outside Botswana due to the inability to access travel documentation. Children from minority groups in Botswana face challenges in accessing education, partly due to the absence of mother-tongue education,” reads part of the report.  The report of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues highlights that despite the adoption of the system of hostel accommodation for children from minority groups, many of these children still ran away or performed poorly. Therefore, it was recommended that the Government adopt new educational policies allowing the teaching of minority languages and their use as a medium of instruction in private schools.

The report further recommended, “the development of policies for public schools to teach and use minority languages as the medium of instruction where this is reasonably possible and where numbers warrant, to the degree appropriate and applying the principle of proportionality”. Lack of trained educators and support workers, geographical distance to school, and social norms and stigma contribute to excluding children with disabilities from school.

One-tenth of students with disabilities in Botswana reported stopping attending school because of difficulty in getting to school. Integration of children with disabilities into mainstream schools is limited, and children with disabilities are usually segregated into specific schools.
When students with disabilities attend mainstream school, learning support, including appropriate teaching material, can be inadequate: primary school students with disabilities in Botswana who attended mainstream schools reported that, although they appreciated being in inclusive classrooms, parts of the curriculum were inaccessible to them.

Adolescent girls and young women are also at risk of exclusion from education, mainly because of early pregnancy. Female dropout exceeds that of their male counterparts across Forms 3–5. Higher rates of female dropout are found in the Central, Southern, North West, Kweneng and South East Regions. Pregnancy tends to be the main reason for female youth dropout and also accounts for the higher level of grade repetition among female youth across Forms 3–5. In 2015, the highest number of repeating students recorded were in Central and North West Regions.

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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.

“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).

Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.

A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.

The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.

The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.

This has since been denied by the Ministry.  In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.”  Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”

The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term.  “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja.  He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”

Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation.  Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.

It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.

Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.

The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.”  According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.

“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.

Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions.  It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.

“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.

Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.

Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.

According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.”  Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.

It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from.  “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.

Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems.  It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation.  Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.

It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.

“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions.
Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.

“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions.  Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”

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