Botswana needs to move fast to come up with a new model of finance to replace the current model of higher education financing which has become archaic and outdated.
The current model is not only unsustainable, it has also been overtaken by events.
Like the education system itself, the finance model is no longer fit for purpose.
If the model is not changed quickly, some universities and tertiary institutions will simply collapse.
This is not an exaggeration.
In fact some universities are already technically bankrupt.
It is not a secret that universities are surviving on a shoe string budget.
Take the University of Botswana for example.
For years this exalted university has relied on government subvention, not only for things like salaries but also for other operational costs.
Over the recent past, Botswana government has had to significantly reduce the amount it has been giving out to UB. In short, UB is now required to fend for itself – by and large.
That has forced the university leadership to seriously look at other options.
But they need to do more. And quickly. Or else it will soon be a case of too little, too late.
What is inevitable is that quality will significantly drop unless the situation changes across the universities.
The required change is unlikely to come unless there is a change in how higher education is financed in this country.
The leadership has to take this seriously.
It’s election year this yaer.
But this issue can no longer be delayed any further on the alter on of political convenience.
Again, enrollment figures cannot significantly grow under the existing model.
It is a given that some universities will not embark on research, much less on development.
Some programmes will be slashed as will be some faculties.
This is all on account of survival.
Reports that a Vice Chancellor at BIUST spends tens of thousands on alcohol at a time when there is just no money for serious things should be of concern to those in power.
But then we cannot expect much because like others in similar positions like him, he is a friend to those in power.
There used to be a time when money was not a big issue for Botswana government.
That is no longer the case. Money is now in real short supply.
Relying on government for funding is no longer a viable option.
In fact the very sustainability of free education now is questionable.
It looks increasingly likely that going forward the economy is going to be even much more hard pressed.
Of course it is because diamond sales have slowed down considerably.
It is also because getting those mines off the ground has become more expensive as the mines have become deeper.
But diamond mines are already planning to go underground. Which by itself will become a challenge.
The economy remains undiversified.
Over the last two years the situation has worsened as a result of inflation and resultant cost of living.
Overhauling the higher education finance model is not the only thing that Botswana government can no longer postpone any further.
There are too many struggling parastatals.
Unless something is done with those parastatals some of them will just collapse.
The truth is that many of these parastatals are no longer needed.
Many of these parastatals were created out of need.
But the economy has now matured. And the roles of these parastatals can easily be filled by other private institutions.
Gov’t should move to close some parastatals before they collapse.