It is crystal clear that the Government can no longer bear the brunt of sponsoring students for tertiary education. Financing students for higher education is gradually becoming unbearable on the part of the Government. Each year, the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) devises and formulates policies meant to reduce Government spending on tertiary education.
Responding to questions from The Botswana Gazette, Principal Public Relations Officer in the Ministry, Silas Sehularo stated that for the academic year commenced in August, the Ministry received 2696 applications for re-sponsorship and only 1733 were successful. In addition, the ministry received 584 applications for progression of which only 484 were successful. The Ministry turned down 1003 applications from recent form fives out of 9546 who had applied.
As for progression, priority was given to students who had applied for programmes in the fields of construction, health, engineering, agriculture, CIMA and ACCA. Students who had applied for reinstatement of their sponsorship should have paid for and passed all outstanding modules including those which led to termination of their sponsorship. In addition, priority was given to students left with less than a year to complete their studies and all those whose sponsorships were terminated on medical grounds. Students from remote areas and vulnerable families were also considered.
According to Sehularo, to date only 23 269 beneficiaries of Government sponsorship have paid their loans whereas a total of 6 000 are still paying. The Government has also intensified its efforts in tracing beneficiaries who have not yet paid their loans. Students who are on government sponsorship receive living and book allowance. In addition, the Government pays their tuition fees which increases each academic year.
In recent years, the Ministry terminated its external sponsorship programme. Students used to be sponsored to study abroad especially in programs which were not available in local universities. The ministry argued that it was becoming expensive for the Government to sponsor students abroad. Through its ‘Study in Botswana’ initiative, the Government encouraged students to study locally and also called on local universities to offer many programs.
A senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Botswana who preferred to be anonymous slammed the Government for playing double standards. “The Ministry of Education receives the largest share of the budget but limited progress is made in as far as education is concerned. The pillar of an educated and informed nation will remain far-fetched if the Ministry continues to formulate such draconian policies,” explained the educationist.