Monday, September 27, 2021

Gov’t too broke to sponsor some tertiary students

Government has taken a decision not to sponsor progressions and re-sponsorships owing to budgetary constraints.

Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology Dr Douglas Letsholathebe told Parliament recently that government has set aside P627 million to sponsor first year tertiary students.

He said due to financial constraints, government might not be able to sponsor a large number of first year students.

Director in the Department of Tertiary Education Financing Neo Sebolao told this publication that it will be difficult this year to consider sponsoring those seeking to progress in their education level as well as those seeking to be re-sponsored.

Sebolao stated that the available finances have been restricted to sponsoring first year students, adding that they have received over 4,500 applications, of which 4,300 applications have been approved.

She further said a total of 8, 500 Batswana students who finished their secondary school education last year qualify for sponsorship this year.

“This year government made it clear that there is a financial problem and that is why even the Minister had to go back to parliament to request for additional funding,” said Sebolao.

She also said even though there are no finances to sponsor progressions and re-sponsorships, the two will only be considered should there be any finances left from sponsoring prospective first year students.

“Sponsoring students to progress in their education levels and also sponsoring re-sponsorships is a privilege. Students know that very well. This year there is no money,” said Sebolao.

She indicated that Covid-19 has brought about disturbance in the sense that new students are expected to report to their respective institutions late.

“It is not the first time that new students will be reporting late to their institutions, even last year we experienced the same because institutions had closed and also there was an issue of finances,” added Sebolao.

Sebolao further said they have so far engaged different institutions to alert them about this delay.

“We have received quite a good number applications, some seeking to be sponsored to do progression while for some they want to be re-sponsored because they dropped out on various reasons,” added Sebolao.

A cut in tertiary finances come at a time when some MPs recently suggested that able-bodied parents should step in to help government by paying their children allowances.

This year, it was reported that government may cut a sizable number of state-funded tertiary students from receiving monthly allowances to lift the financial burden, which currently stands at P60 million per month.

Letsholathebe said the discussion will involve the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) to help with a framework for linking student applications with the earnings of parents.

“We will also include social workers in this process to ensure that students are not disadvantaged because you and I agree will agree that there are wealthy parents out there who can assist their children financially,” he asserted.

The hope is that the first exercise will allow the government to review tertiary allowances for disadvantaged students continuously, he added. “We know that there are students who desperately need the allowance more than others. To some it is not even enough to cater for their needs,” the minister noted.

HE disclosed that the consultative process on this would have started earlier had the outbreak of Covid-19 not disrupted the plans. “We are just waiting for the virus situation to get better before we roll up our sleeves and get on with the task,” he said.

“Consultations shall be done through councils where councilors will represent their respective communities.”

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