The Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) has launched a committee of inquiry to probe the declining pass rates at primary, junior and secondary schools and the state of affairs in the education sector, The Telegraph learnt this week.┬á
The probe comes at a time when President Ian Khama decided to send cabinet ministers, including himself, permanent secretaries and their deputies across the country to compile an audit on the state of schools.
But when contacted on Monday, the Minister of Education and Skills Development Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi said she was not aware of the committee that has been set up to draft terms of reference for the inquiry to be conducted by a consultancy company that will win the tender.
Venson-Moitoi defended her Ministry saying she does not need to be briefed all the time when such a committee is constituted.┬á
“My Ministry is broad and has various departments and stakeholders, so at times there is no need to brief me on such issues,” she said.
The Telegraph has also established that the committee of inquiry that has been tasked with drafting the terms of reference is headed by University of Botswana academic, Professor Bagele Chilisa.
Stakeholders who sit in the committee include Permenat Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development Grace Muzila and members from public service unions.
Contacted for comment, Chilisa confirmed that she is the chairperson of the committee. She however could not be drawn into further details saying she is yet to start working on “her assignment” and referred this publication to the Ministry of Education. Muzila’s phone rang answered.
It is understood that after completion of the terms of reference the Ministry will float an advert inviting Consultancy Company to conduct an inquiry into the decline of the pass rate in schools and other challenges currently facing the ministry.
The consultancy company that will win the tender to conduct an inquiry into the decline of the pass rate in schools across the country will be reporting to the Chilisa’s committee.┬á
In other words the committee will be acting as a supervisor to the consultancy, said a source at the Ministry.
It is understood that the consults will investigate the core of the problems as they varied between vacant teaching posts, syllabus and the standard of classrooms, teachers’ welfare among others things.
Contacted for comment, University of Botswana Dean of the Faculty of Education Professor Richard Tabulawa welcomed the move saying he had long supported and called for such kind of an inquiry.
“I have long called for an inquiry that is holistic, and comprehensive, like a commission of inquiry on education not a fault finding one where by someone will be held responsible. There is need to look at basic education as a whole in order to get at the root cause of the problem,” he said.
He added that such kind of an inquiry has the potential to unearth issues that impinge on the quality of education.
“The inquiry should be open-ended and look at issues such as resources, staffing among others,” said Tabulawa.
The Ministry of Education has, in the 2014 national budget, been given a lion’s share – 29 percent – of overall public expenditure during the forthcoming, 2014-15, financial year, with the Ministry alone being allocated P 9.26 billion in recurrent expenditure.
Recently there was a public outcry about the 2013 Junior Certificate Examination (JCE) results which were described as poor. The JCE results did not have any merits while the number of students who obtained grade A declined from more than 500 to around 300.
Of the 38 944 candidates who wrote the 2013 examinations, 325 obtained Grade A compared to 590 last year. Some 3 788 candidates managed Grade B this year compared to 4 745 last year while those awarded Grade C are 9 626 as opposed to 10 386 last year.
In all these grade categories, the results show a decline in performance from last year, confirming information this publication got from last week during the inquiry meant to unravel the delay.
At 13 662, the statement from BEC further shows a 0.5 percent decline in the number of candidates who obtained Grade D, with 5 540 awarded Grade E compared to 4 889 last year.
Grade U was awarded to 5 592 candidates while 412 were not awarded any grade because they did not meet minimum requirements for being awarded an overall grade.