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Access to quality education priority- Letsholathebe

03 Mar 2024

Access to quality education from pre-primary to tertiary is one of the key government priorities, says Minister of Education and Skills Development, Dr Douglas Letsholathebe.

Presenting the education and skills development 2024/2025 budget proposal recently, Dr Letsholathebe said his ministry continued to support access to education through the implementation of reception class programmes in 714 out of 764 primary schools with over 29 000 children enrolled.

He said the use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction for lower classes was another initiative geared towards improving and promoting early childhood education. 

“The Botswana Languages Policy in education is to guide the use of local languages as a medium of instruction at the lower levels of primary education as well as the teaching of such languages as subjects over time,” he said.

He said the use of 13 local languages was introduced in lower primary classes in 154 of the targeted 170 public primary schools in January 2023. 

The 13 languages, he said included Afrikaans, Chikuhane (Sesubiya), Ikalanga, Naro (Sesarwa), IsiNdebele, Otjiherero/Otjimbanderu Shekgalagari, Shiyeyi, Shona, Thimbukushu and sign language.

Dr Letsholathebe added that the aim was to roll-out the programme to 120 more schools and to finalise the orthography for the phase 2 languages for the 2024/25 financial year.

Additionally, Dr Letsholathebe stated that the net enrolment rate for secondary education increased from 71 per cent in 2019/2020 to 73.1 per cent in 2020/2021, but decreased to 63.1 per cent in 2022.

He said transition from junior secondary to senior secondary over the last four years showed an upward trajectory, rising from 53.7 per cent in 2020 to 58.5 per cent in 2022.

To prepare for the growing number of pupils seeking admission into senior secondary schools, Dr Letsholathebe said the ministry was undertaking a review of existing schools to accommodate expansion of teaching and learning space. 

In addition, he said the drive to expand enrolment within budget constraints demanded a review of infrastructure design and utilisation to maximise intake with minimal expenditure. 

“This requires a re-thinking of the classroom design to foster enhanced learner centeredness and practical engagement,” said the minister, adding that as they prepared for NDP 12 the focus would move towards a more hybrid design of teaching and learning spaces as well as smarter digital solutions to foster remote approaches.

Despite all the effort to improve the education sector, Dr Letsholathebe admitted that the ministry continued to face challenges to provide basic resources for education at all levels, including furniture, text books and stationery. 

“In addition the ministry has been facing escalating costs of utilities and is taking steps to reduce water and electricity usage across all institutions and has instigated a programme of digitisation, which will see a reduction in the cost of providing stationery and text books as e-materials become the norm,” he said.

He acknowledged that the state of school facilities was appalling and in need of urgent attention. 

Dr Letsholathebe also acknowledged that the ministry had been having challenges in replacing worn furniture at schools for both classrooms and hostels, but assured Parliament that they were working around the clock to improve the situation.

He highlighted that the ministry aimed to pilot and roll-out a new facilities management structure in the 2024/25 financial year to address the issue. 

The structure, he said, would see technicians, artisans and craft improvers brought together and strategically placed at regional and sub-region level.

Dr Letsholathebe further said there were continuous efforts to improve and increase instructional space, adding that to date procurement for the 414 pre-fabricated classrooms targeting overcrowded junior secondary schools across the country has achieved limited success. ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Thato Mosinyi

Location : GABORONE

Event : Parliament

Date : 03 Mar 2024