Student allowances do not match expenses

Gaborone Central MP Dumelang Saleshando has blamed the poor record system at the Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF) for the plight of tertiary students whose living allowances have been marred by inconsistencies and do not match expenses.

He said the Ministry of Education cannot collect funds from previous beneficiaries because they do not have the records to ease the exercise. Saleshando said as it is, the system is disorganised and punishes future beneficiaries to make up for the non-recovered funds. The MP was speaking at the launch of a Commission of Inquiry into the Students' Living and Academic Costs at the University of Botswana.

"The system needs to promote fairness and equal opportunities for all beneficiaries," he said. Saleshando said there should be a formula that takes into account the cost of living and other factors so that students' do not suffer in their learning journey. "The system does not take into account key principles like expenses," he added. 

Dubbed the Richard Commission, the study looks into socio-economic problems and challenges to the student welfare, which has been described as 'in jeopardy under the current allowances,' It is co-authored by SRC president Khumoekae Richard and information and publicity secretary Ronald Badubi. The report highlights a number of challenges among the student community inter alia an acute shortage of accommodation, which has bred poor academic life.

"There is a severe accommodation crisis, currently only 5,000 of the 16,000 student population reside on campus," Richard said.

He added that the living allowance crisis, together with other social ills has led to students missing classes due to lack of money to pay for public transport, inadequate cash to buy prescribed textbooks and starvation. The report found that toiletry prices stood at P354.50, cooking gas sold for P245 (19kg), rental for off campus students costs between P700-P1,000, food baskets cost P843.40 totalling P2,690.68 for off-campus students while monthly living costs for those residing on-campus is P2,565.36.

"The recent public transport fare hike by 10 percent and increased cooking gas prices has exacerbated the situation," he added.  The battle of book allowances is also a major hindrance to learning as the study indicated that a science student needs P6,000, while non-science require P5,010 against the P2,000 allowance they get.

This report recommends that off-campus allowance be restored to its past-immediate amount of P1,920 and adjustment of on campus allowance to P1,500. "Off campus allowance should be adjusted to P2500 to match the costs unearthed by the commission," Richard said.

It also states that book allowance be hiked to P5,000, for non-science programmes and P6,000 for science courses and be credited as hard cash to allow for financial liberation and freedom of choice.

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