Monday, November 28, 2022

EU no longer funding much-touted education programme

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Miriam Maroba sidestepped a question put to her by the Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP, Mephato Reatile, on the much-touted but disastrous Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP).

Reatile, who was chairing a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, asked Maroba to state how much has been spent on “the Plan that never took off” and what it has achieved. Maroba never quoted a pula sum relating to cost and what she mentioned with regard to achievements were digitisation, curriculum reforms and quality assurance by the Botswana Qualifications Authority.

She was keen to stress that the Plan, which should have been implemented between 2015 and 2020, “is still being implemented” and is “still relevant.” She added though that the implementation was delayed and that in the near term, the Ministry will be finalising the implementation of the Plan while reviewing it in terms of the Ministry’s new strategy. Reatile didn’t ask a follow-up question and it was clear that he didn’t have adequate information about the Plan – whose milestones he said were being kept under wraps.

It would seem that Maroba took advantage of the MP’s lack of awareness about the Plan to withhold a lot of information about it. The full accounting that the MP wanted is nothing that would give him hope and sources within the Ministry itself say that the Plan has failed. In the past, Sunday Standard has showed how the Plan’s implementation has never met its targets.

According to the ETSSP, by 2018, secondary education key performance indicators and targets (including pass rates) were to show a 50 percent improvement. However, as examination results of the Botswana General Certificate for Secondary Education and Junior Certificate of Education show, the pass rates are nowhere near that target. By now, a teaching council should long have been established through an act of parliament and by the end of this year, such council was to have licensed 50 percent of teachers. Three years ago, the council was to have developed an assessment and accreditation system for teacher education and professional development in accordance with policies of the Botswana Qualifications Authority and the Botswana Examinations Council. That has not happened.

Sources tell Sunday Standard that failure to implement the Plan according to the set-down schedule resulted in the European Union (EU) slashing its quite generous funding for it. The EU provided budgetary support for the Plan with the expectation that the Ministry would implement it according to schedule. However, when the implementation failed to meet set timelines and targets, the EU reduced its funding, aligning such funding to actual success from the previous year. The result was that EU’s budgetary support for the Plan declined over the years until it stopped altogether when the funding period elapsed. As of now, EU doesn’t fund ETSSP and the money that it gave out was drastically reduced by the Ministry’s failure to implement it. Our information is that the rate of implementation never went beyond 20 percent in a year.   

We further learn that the EU and the Ministry were not on the same page with regard to how Botswana’s education system should be improved. Where the EU’s major concern was quality education, the Ministry’s was high enrolment figures. As a result of the latter, large numbers of students were and are still being enrolled but the desired educational outcomes were and are still poor.

When ETSSP was introduced, a cabinet minister (Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi) was briefly reassigned as its coordinator.

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