Acutely aware of the fact that the government doesn’t run “a great public education system”, Botswana Democratic Party MPs prefer to send their children to much more efficient private schools.
That was how the Leader of the Opposition, Duma Boko, characterised the ruling party’s circumvention of a problem it has created. Globally, Botswana is among the Top 5 highest spenders in education. However, as study after study has shown, educational outcomes are not commensurate with that level of spending. Boko’s explanation for this discrepancy is that the money goes to non-educational expense.
“The unstinted millions that we poured in education have gone to fund a bloated bureaucracy and failed to transform the classroom and the learning environment positively. The more we have increased funding, the worse the results have become,” said the MP adding that in order to protect their own families against a chaotic education system, the BDP leadership is placing their children as far away from government school system as possible. “It comes as no wonder then, that none of my colleagues on this side of the aisle send their children to public schools. None of you. It is a searing indictment of your education system.”
If a good number of Batswana have been able to move from poverty to prosperity, it is mainly because of education. However, Boko lamented that education no longer has pride of place in the nation’s opportunity infrastructure.
“Education should be, as we got to know when we were growing up, the only sure escape from poverty by all. Most MPs and many in public service are living testimony of the empowering role of education. Except for a few who inherited prestige and privilege, most Batswana come from humble backgrounds. Education used to enable them to overcome poverty. This sadly is no longer the case,” he said.
Going back decades, fly-by-night schools have been part of the education system but the establishment of the regulatory authorities at the turn of the century gave both students and parents conscious hope that this nocturnal aviation activity would finally be eliminated. However, even as the Human Resources Development Council and the Botswana Qualifications Authority continue to grow from strength to strength, fly-by-night schools continue to roaring business. Boko said that private providers of vocational and technical education are just interested in profit and care less about the quality of training they provide.
“In fact, some of them claim funds from the training levy for students’ attachment when they do not have such attachment programmes. This is fraudulent behaviour. And yet, government turns a blind eye to all these.”
A recent World Bank report that assesses Botswana’s poverty notes another education-related problem. According to this report, the gap in educational outcomes between the rich and poor persists, even though primary education is free.
This suggests the poor face non-fee barriers that compromise their educational outcomes, including the cost of accessing education (e.g., distance to school). Unfortunately, rural residents face poorer educational outcomes than residents of cities and towns,” the World Bank says.