Sunday, October 17, 2021

Five-year olds become collateral damage in controversial P10 million tender

Innocent souls who won’t even know the meaning of “tender” for the next 10 years are the main victims in a P10 million tender that was supposed to enrich their learning.

Last year, the Department of Basic Education in what was then called the Ministry of Education and Skills Development invited companies to take part in a selective tendering process to supply teaching and learning materials for government primary schools that offer reception classes. The latter are meant to increase access to pre-primary education. In 2012, the ministry introduced an orientation programme for prospective Standard One pupils and followed up with the introduction of reception classes in public schools the following year. The Education and Training Strategic Sector Plan, which is to be implemented over a five-year period (2015-2020), says that the reception programme is meant “to partly prepare children for learning, with the provision of readiness activities and also to help children settle into schools.” The Plan says that this development “will have resource implications and will require support and further development.”

Having initially greenlighted a selective tendering process, the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) reversed its decision when the latter process had played itself out. The Committee recommended that the process be started afresh under a completely different method ÔÇô open tendering. Worried about the implications of such decision, the Director of Basic Education wrote a letter to the MTC imploring it to reconsider its decision.

“We need not reiterate the urgency at which these materials are required in schools to support implementation of the programme. It may be worthwhile to point out that prolonged absence of the materials in schools continues to adversely affect or compromise the quality of teaching and learning,” the Director’s letter says.

The letter “pleads” with the MTC “to reconsider its decision and authorise the awarding of the tender as per the results of the evaluation of the submitted bids.” MTC declined this plea and the matter would not have come to public attention hadn’t one of the companies that bid, Kinder Educonsult, gone to court. During the course of the judicial process, the company discovered that some documents were missing from the record. Upon conviction that the PPADB is hiding such documents, Justice Dr. Zein Kebonang at the Gaborone High Court has ruled that such documents be surrendered to the Registrar and Master of the High Court. The main review application has yet to be argued out in court. This means that for now there will be no process to procure the teaching and learning materials. 

Two groups of children have come out the worst in this saga. The first is that of children who were already enrolled in the reception programme. This would be the group that the Director’s letter refers to when it states that the “prolonged absence of the materials in schools continues to adversely affect or compromise the quality of teaching and learning.” The second is of children who will be enrolled in the programme in the coming year, who will start classes next month. Tenders of this nature go through the bureaucratic red tape very slowly and it might be six months after the court case is concluded for the materials to arrive in schools.

From what the Director’s letter says (“awarding … the tender as per the results of the evaluation of the submitted bids”) Kinder Educonsult should have been awarded the tender because, according to Kebonang’s ruling, it was the only one that put in a responsive bid.

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