The dreams of Batswana top achievers, who had wanted to study their A levels outside, may be shattered.
The Monitor has established that there are some students who would not be sponsored by the Ministry under Top Achievers Scholarship programme even if they do qualify because the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) does not have funds. The programme was launched in 2009 and its aim was to promote both hard work and enhance competition among young learners in schools.
This has forced some parents to write to President Ian Khama expressing their displeasure with the late communication by the MoESD. In a letter dated May 22, 2015, the concerned parents said that they received a response from the MoESD dated May 19, 2015, indicating that there was a review of the Top Achievers programme for the placement and sponsorship.
“Our position as parents is that the review was carried out in 2015 after the results had been announced. The communication was done late and the current cohort of students had legitimate expectation to be sponsored under the existing dispensation. Schools had committed resources to the programme and would not have sufficient time to adjust,”
The parents noted that the decision was made three months after the results had been released and this was a very serious prejudice to young children.
The letter, which was signed by twenty parents, added that schools like Maruapula had advised students to wait to enrol for their A levels in January 2016.
“This would seriously prejudice these students and leave them very much open to drug and alcohol abuse even teenage pregnancy and other ills. The crime of these innocent souls your Excellency is simply because they worked hard and became top achievers. For this, they now get punished,” they stated.
In making this decision, the MoESD permanent secretary, Richard Matlhare, noted that the inclusion of the 4A* to 5A* into the Top Achievers programme saw the numbers increasing from 47 in 2012, to 114 in 2013 and 189 in 2014, at a cost of up to P750, 000.00 per student per year for external placement.
“This level of expenditure proved unsustainable given the ministry’s responsibility to provide funding to close to 50 000 students annually (new students, progressing students, re-instatements) and given that there currently over 100 000 Batswana young people who qualify for various sponsorship but are on the street due to inadequate funds,” he said.
He said it is on the basis that the ministry decided in 2014 to review the programme for the 2015 placement and sponsorship and it resulted to reinstatement of the qualification requirement to its original 6A* minimum at Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE)/ international General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) or their equivalent.
“Those qualifying at this level would be placed and sponsored for A’ level programmes into local institutions, (which would cost around P175, 000 per student per year, compared to for example, local college/university placement ranging between P25, 000 and P62, 000 per student/year. Students graduating from A’ level programme with a minimum 3As would qualify for external placement into Top Tier Universities,” he said. Even though the ministry says the communication was communicated to all stakeholders last year, their correspondences are dated this year. The Ministry maintains that the learners who obtained 4A* or 5A* at BGCSE or equivalent will be sponsored and placed in local institutions to pursue A’ level or International Baccalaureate Diploma programme (IBDP) for two years.
The programme was launched in 2009 with 19 students. In 2011, the Ministry extended the scholarship to achievers who attained 4A* and above, but fall short of 6A*s.
In 2012, the scholarship was divided into two categories category A include those with 6A* and category B with at least 4A* but fell short of 6A*’s.