Assistant minister for Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology Fidelis Molao on Friday told Parliament that there is no budget for student allowance increment.
Molao was responding to a question from Gaborone Central legislator, Phenyo Butale, who had asked whether there are any plans to revise the tertiary student allowance that has been stagnant for many years.
Butale argued that the Ministry should consider linking the frequency of adjustment of allowance to inflationary trends.
He further said if the government was not in a position to increase the allowance, they should at least restore the amount to the P1, 920 that were reduced nine years ago due to economic recession.
“Ever since then there have been inflationary adjustments across the board for various public servants.
We are saying the minister should consider assisting tertiary students because P1, 420 is far from being adequate. I have said before that if you cannot increase it, at least restore it to P1, 920,” he said.
In his response, Molao said the off campus allowance was reduced to P1, 420 in 2009, as a result of budgetary constraints due to the economic recession while on campus allowance remained at P1, 200 for on campus students.
“The living allowance was reviewed in 2018 and the off campus allowance was raised to P1, 620. On campus with catering is now P250 from P150, The ministry could not restore the off campus allowance to P1, 920 because of budgetary constraints,” he said.
“The ministry currently disburses around P50 million on a monthly basis as payment for monthly living allowance. On annual basis, the allowances amount to P730 million.”
Molao admitted that the current amount given to students is not sufficient given the cost of living.
He said the budget allocated to the ministry is eight percent less than that of last year.
“It will therefore, stand to reason that it will be impossible for this financial year to consider increasing allowances for students without a possible reduction in the number of students that will be sponsored to enter tertiary education this year.”
Gaborone North legislator, Haskins Nkaigwa quizzed the minister as to whether the government sees education as an investment and took a jab at minister Thapelo Olopeng.
“I am not surprised, government appointed a minister who has never seen the gates of tertiary institution.
What should we expect from being led by someone who has never been to university,” he said.
Olopeng angrily rose on a point of order and threatened to assassinate Nkaigwa’s character from his days as Gaborone mayor.