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Education expenditure

“But education’s not just good for children, it’s good for nations.

Investing in education isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s smart economics” Yoka Brandt. Developed countries have since time immemorial ensured that they pump money into education. We have however, only recently got epiphanized.

In the recent past, we have seen large amounts of money being allocated to education in the national budget: 2017-P6.80 billion; 2018-P7.97 billion; 2019-P8.2 billion; 2020-P9.01 billion, totalling 31.98 billion!

It however, is shocking that all around us the situation in public schools deteriorates further. The million Pula question is: WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?  Seeing as there is no evidence of the money being used to improve schools in any way?

In 2018 Minister Mathambo said, “The largest share amounting to P7.97 billion or 17.7 percent of the total Ministerial Recurrent Budget, is proposed for allocation to the Ministry of Basic Education. This will primarily deliver on government’s firm commitment to prioritise human capital development, as indicated in the National Development Plan 11. This proposed provision caters for; payment of utilities, books, equipment, maintenance of facilities, food supplies in secondary schools, as well as other education-related commitments, including teachers’ salaries and allowances.”

In the 2020 budget speech, Finance Minister, Thapelo Matsheka said, “The Ministry of Basic Education is allocated the largest share of the proposed Ministerial recurrent budget amounting to P9.01 billion. The significant budget allocation demonstrates Government’s commitment to deliver on the human capital development priority, which is a prerequisite for the transition to a knowledge-based economy.”

Allow me to use Minister Mathambo’s 2018 speech as a point of reference to unpack how dire the situation in public school is at present.

Payment of utilities: utility bills debt runs over millions – water, electricity and telephone bills. Equipment: Which equipment because photo-copying machines have broken down? I recall at one point all Gaborone East JSSs schools using the Nanogang photocopying machine until it too broke down. In the recent past Gaborone West JSSs used the SSKM photocopier…which equipment? The sewing machines in HE labs aren’t working, stoves are dead! In the D&T labs machinery is dead, the science lab are now classrooms and sciences are taught orally and yet year in year out poor teachers are asked to account for results? As a subject, English should have at least six radios, but alas!

I’m reminded of 2012 when BEC tried to change the JC English Paper 4 such that instead of listening to the teacher read a passage, candidates would listen to a CD played on radio. The main question I advanced in my protest to the then Assistant Minister of Education, Keletso Rakhudu was, “How are we going to afford radios when we can’t afford the core text, English in Action? To date teachers read for students because there are no radios. Even though Listening is one of the skills taught, there are no radios for that.

Go to staff-rooms and see the things that teachers sit on! Learners are taught outside sitting on the floor! If they are fortunate enough to get a chair, they write on their lap! Where does the money go? If the situation is this desperate in urban schools, what more of schools I rural Botswana?

Books: There are no textbooks in schools! In ‘fortunate’ situations, 300+ learners share 40 textbooks, teachers have now devised a term for that, they call them class sets. You take them when you go to class and return them when the lesson ends.

Generally, most subject do not have a single textbook and teachers are forced to buy their own copies that they

use to make notes for the learners. Unlike when I was growing up, children aren’t given textbooks to take home. Even notebooks, scribblers and exercise books, parents buy. And children from disadvantaged families go to school daily and have nothing to write in. Other resources like pens, markers and covering sheets teachers/learners buy for themselves.

Maintenance of facilities: It is atrocious to even mention this in front of the whole world given the ramshackle state of public schools. Classrooms are doorless, window panes are broken, ceilings have fallen, notice and chalk board are no more. Even if a teacher wants to make teaching aids, there is nowhere to pin them! Classrooms aren’t conducive to learning. And we expect good results!

Food supplies in secondary schools: In most schools, in the first two and last two weeks of the term children leave after period eight because there is no lunch. Those schools which do not dismiss them have a special agreement with suppliers where the get the food on credit. The money allocated to feeding it clearly isn’t enough!

 Other education-related commitments, including teachers’ salaries and allowances: This one is hilarious for teachers are owed overtime allowance running over three years. Teachers who coach sports and clubs are exploited. To ensure the exploitation is successful MOHIRI bypasses Unions and uses the Botswana Integrated Sport Association (BISA) Leadership. These guys have mastered deception. They sell teachers dreams, coerce them into doing overtime and when it is time to cough up, they give teachers the run around hiding behind MOHIRI. Where the overtime allowance money goes nobody knows!

In other jurisdictions like the US, PER STUDENT/PUPIL SPENDING where they allocate money specifically each learner. The most recent data indicates in the US, $11,762 is spent on public education per student.  However, there are significant variations across states: “Districts in a state with the steepest per pupil costs are typically serving more students living in poverty or with additional needs. Research suggests that educating special needs students costs roughly twice as much as providing education to those without disabilities.” But here it’s ONE SIZE FITS ALL!

Also, in the US, schools at the back of beyond are given more money to cater for things like transportation of learners. I thought of the six-year-olds in the Ralekgetho Ward from Molomojang, who do 40 KMs daily in the bush to access a school 20 KMs away.

The highlight is accountability! At the end of each financial year, each District in the US submits its expenditure tabulated, and the data is loaded into the National Education Expenditure site; unlike here at home accountability is anathema. Where there are no control measures in place, everybody does as they please and thieves multiply. When money grows legs and wings; it is the common man that suffers the most. 2017, 6 million vanished from the MoE&SD coffers and to date nobody has been called to account.

Me thinks the US system of monitoring education expenditure and ensuring there is accountability works and should be adopted. That is if we are serious about turning things around.

“No other investment yields as great a return as the investment in education. An educated workforce is the foundation of every community and the future of every economy.” Brad Henry.

Good governance starts with making accountability a mandatory principle. We cannot have the nation bombarded with figures year in year out without a slightest sign of where the money is spent on the ground. The more money education gets, the worse the situation gets.

Educationally Speaking



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