Sunday, June 23, 2024

Books galore for schools not in need

Auditor General Pulane Letebele says some schools have had a large quantity of underutilised textbooks while others had shortages.

This is found in her audit report of Government accounts for the financial year ending 31 March, 2021.

“There were some old syllabus textbooks found in several schools that were no longer relevant to the current syllabus resulting in wasteful expenditure,” she observed. 

Wasteful spending is one of the many reasons why students in Botswana are not reaching their full educational potential.

Botswana’s syllabus is reviewed every three years, and as a result, the recommended textbooks for schools may change. In the report, an Accounting Officer from the ministry of Basic Education is cited as saying that text book shortages can also be blamed on double procurement.

“In order to procure textbooks, the Regional Office requests schools to audit their textbooks and indicate their requirements.  However, it has been observed that both the Regional Office and department of Secondary Education Headquarters procured textbooks for schools. This therefore results in double procurement of books, creating excess of the same books in some schools,” says the Accounting Officer who was cited in the report, adding that “this leads to schools having some textbooks, which are not in the current prescriptions as books cannot be auctioned.”

Letebele also says her audit teams visited a few South East Region schools and discovered a severe shortage of textbooks in some primary and secondary schools. “We observed that in all the Junior Secondary Schools there was only one class set of textbooks provided for about 26 to 30 students,” adding that “some schools were supplied with more books than required even in instances where they provided a record of their needs,” states the audit report.

As recommendations, the Auditor General urged the Ministry of Basic Education “to implement the required improvements in text books stock Management processes and use the available Systems like SWIMS to control procurement, receipts, distribution and issue of text books.”

The Audit also demonstrates the lack of funding for the Ministry of Basic Education for the three fiscal years 2018–19, 2019–20, and 2020–21 as actual expenditure always exceeded the approved estimates. 

The 2020–21 fiscal year’s approved expenditure was P14 million, but the actual book expenditure was P56 703 608. The approved expenditure for the 2019–20 fiscal year was P14 million, but the actual book expenditure P81 224 495, that is five times more. The approved expenditure for the 2018-19 was P21 540 000, but the actual book expenditure was P78 970 950, that is four times more.

“In the absence of those necessary internal controls like supervision, record keeping, monitoring and reconciliation, it is logical that the actual expenditure will continue along the negative trend,” says the Auditor General.

When the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) released its first scorecard a few months ago to measure how well African countries are doing in reaching the education targets, they mentioned that 4 in 10 students in the last primary grade owned a reading textbook which slows down the educational progress of students.

“The absence or inadequacy of textbooks and teacher guides is one of the reasons which is believed to undermine the realisation of education policies seeking to improve foundational literacy and numeracy,” said UNESCO in the report, adding that lack of textbooks undermines opportunities to learn.

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