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Botswana's children investment under scrutiny

NNASARETHA KGAMANYANE
Botswana is not investing effectively in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, the promotion of the physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of children.

This was revealed by managing consultant at Speck Dynamics, Sennye Obuseng.

He was making a contribution on Presentation of Analysis of National Budget from a Child’s Rights to Members of Parliament in Gaborone under the theme ‘Harnessing an invaluable youth demographic dividend- critical reflections on the 2020 national budget and beyond’.

Obuseng said Botswana has a crisis of investment in children. He added that consequences for such a scenario were dire for both children and the economy. He said local children have very poor prospects of realising their potential because of physical and cognitive development explaining that manifest in poor performance at school.

Obuseng said the ineffective investment in children translates into poor economic and human development outcomes warning that the country’s dreams of a knowledge and high-performance compliant economy were unrealisable given trends in its investment in children.

“The narrative of the budget does not prioritise children. The budget is about the economy and the transformative shifts necessary to ensure its long-term help, including transformation, knowledge economy and society and the demographic dividend. The criticality of effective investment in child development notwithstanding, the budget does not seem to recognise the necessary and all-powerful between investment in children and long-term economic goals,” he said.

He pointed out that the budget does not appreciate the criticality of investment in children to long-term socioeconomic goals saying it fails to protect the budget lines that support investment in children.  He said the ministries with direct responsibility for children had all

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seen significant cuts in their development budgets between 2019/20 and 2020/21.

Obuseng further raised concern about cuts extended to the specific programmes that provide for children within each ministry. Taken together, he said those cuts suggest there would be less money for children in 2020/21 even though the magnitude of need will increase, not least because of population growth. He added that the secondary education budget had gone down by 16.1%, primary education development services by 7.4%, social protection by 58%, and primary health care by 76.6%.

“Even though we lament the budget cuts for items that support children, there is an even bigger problem. Across ministries, the departments that support children were, as at end November 2019, mostly badly off-track to achieve credible spending by the end of the fiscal year on 31 March 2020. Thus, schools go without classrooms, not necessarily because there is no money but rather because the spending departments did not use their budgets. For instance, secondary education only spent 31.4% of its allocated budget,” he noted.

Some of the priority actions he recommended include putting people at the centre of all development process especially planning and budgeting, improving government performance, making a radical change towards its investment in children and putting children’s nutrition rights at the top of the agenda for development.

Others are adopting a family approach to child poverty to address the challenge of multiple overlapping deprivations and availing resources to implement the Child Protection Act.

 



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