Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Government cagey on individual private institutions tuition bill

The government has refused to disclose how much it spends on individual private institutions of higher learning amid complaints that officers at the Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF) encourage prospective students to snub government institutions like University of Botswana (UB).

Sunday Standard has spoken to a number of undergraduate students who have made claims against some officers at the DTEF who they suspect to be doubling as agents for certain private institutions looking to maximise on government sponsorship funds.

Some prospective students have told this publication how they were turned down by DTEF officers despite carrying with them admission letters from UB. “They told us to bring multiple admission letters from private institutions even though we had proof of admission from UB,” the students said.

“They said our chances of receiving sponsorship would be incredibly limited if we did not submit multiple admission letters.” The students said they had no interest filling out multiple names as required by the DTEF admission forms because they were only interested in studying at UB.

The DTEF have however defended their decision to demand multiple entries for institutions of learning. “Provision of many admission letters is to increase the scope of applicants’ choices depending on the hierarchy of their career preferences. It has more benefits to the applicant especially in the event where their first choice becomes fully subscribed,” the DTEF says. 

“It must be noted that submission of more than one admission letter is not mandatory as it was a response to curb occurrences of multiple application forms submissions made by an applicant. It must also be pointed out that this scenario was not easy to manage as applicants used to submit in single forms request for sponsorship for different programmes of studies at different times and dates.”

Officers working for the Department of Tertiary Education and Financing (DTEF) in the Ministry of Education Skills and Development (MoSED) have in the past been reportedly put under surveillance after the department instituted an internal audit to investigate allegations of fraud, nepotism and corruption in the awarding of scholarships for tertiary education financing.
The students’ complaints about the conduct of some DCEC staff also serve to highlight the UB’s concerns about the significant drop in the number of under graduate students over the past years. The annual student enrolment at UB, which has a capacity of 20 000 per annum, has been hovering just over 60 percent for the past few years. 

UB have attributed their drop in numbers of under graduate students to the decision by the DTEF to force students to apply for multiple colleges. They have also attributed the drop to the government’s decision to liberalise the education sector.

“The education sector was liberalized, giving students an option to study elsewhere in the country on government sponsorship. Policy change (quota system, discontinuation of perceived non-attractive programmes to the labour market) on government sponsorship also affected us.”

The University have since relaxed their payment plan to allow more students to access to the institution.

DTEF have turned down Sunday Standard’s request for annual tuition paid to various individual private institutions citing fears over possible lawsuits.

“That request for information on how much government spends on individual institutions, we are constrained in providing those details because we shall be in a way revealing the financial statistics of business entities. Since these statistics can be sourced out from the institutions themselves, we advise that you request,” the DTEF said. This was despite Sunday Standard’s insistence that as a government entity they were obligated to disclose how they disburse public funds.

On average the department said they spend P596, 000,000(Five Hundred and Ninety-Six Million Pula) cumulatively on local Private Institutions of learning annually.

They spend on average P703, 000,000 (Seven Hundred and Three Million Pula) on Government institutions of learning annually.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.