The Botswana Council of Non Governmental Organizations (BOCONGO) condemns in the strongest terms the latest developments obtaining at the Ministry Of Education and Skills Development.
The latest development concern the non-sponsorship of students to private tertiary schools as well as the hiking of the cut off points of students eligible for sponsorship to 40 points. Not a long time ago, the ministry informed the University of Botswana students that it would not support them financially while on vacation.
We are not necessarily averse to changes. We believe as the nation continues to face multiple economic challenges we as a country always adopt new measures to counter such challenges. It is, however, important to approach such national issues with the sensitivity they deserve. For the Ministry to suddenly introduce new measures without any iota of consultation or prior warning is not only contemptuous of the role citizenry plays in the development of the country but could also be illegal. Parents have had legitimate expectations that their children would proceed to tertiary with government support and for them to be abandoned in this manner defeats the spirit of BOTHO & THERISANYO, that have guided developments in this country.
BOCONGO is of the view that education of the citizenry must not be taken for granted and it must be prioritized over everything else. It is, therefore, disappointing that the Government could make such a drastic u-turn while at the same time embarking on new initiatives such as constituency football and others that are seemingly less deserving initiatives to education. It must also be noted that the decision of hiking points required for one to qualify for tertiary is mainly going to benefit children of the affluent who attend the so called English medium private schools.
We believe that other mechanisms could have been considered if government had adequately consulted other stakeholders. One such mechanism would have been to require gainfully employed citizens to contribute to the education of our children through an education levy. In this way, then education would remain free for all children, which is a fundamental human right.
BOCONGO is of the view that government spending must be done cautiously but that there are certain areas where we have no choice as a nation but to spend. One such area is the education of our nation. We are concerned that Government’s collection of funds from previously sponsored students has not improved over the years and this decision is seen by some as punishment of innocent students for this failure.
BOCONGO advices Government as thus:
ÔÇó To review its recent decision and rather consult with the nation on this issue and areas that need intervention.
ÔÇó Intensify collection of previous loans.
We are hopeful that as a nation, we can turn our current challenges into opportunities for dialogue on costs sharing, belt tightening and support of the needy & disadvantaged.
Rev Mosweu Simane