Botswana’s education sector has seen remarkable growth and development along with increased accessibility over the last few decades.
Rapid expansion has taken place in Botswana’s education system, which is approaching almost universal primary and junior secondary education, with some 90 percent of children up to the age of 16 enrolled in an education facility. The education system has a high degree of equity in resource allocation, and resource flows to remote rural areas are not significantly lower than those to urban schools. A comprehensive collection of education policies, long-term strategies and medium-term plans are in place that address issues of quality, access and relevance across Botswana’s entire education sector.
Adult literacy rates increased from 81 percent to almost 88 percent between 2003 and 2015. In Botswana, 88.7 percent of all women aged 15 years and older are literate, compared with 86.74 percent of men, according to UNESCO. Commitments to increase literacy have seen Government continue to collaborate with stakeholders, such as the Robert & Sara Rothschild Family Foundation, which has completed the construction of 18 libraries across the country.
The current National Development Plan, which runs from April 2017 to March 2023, aims to transform Botswana into a knowledge-driven economy and emphasises the importance of education to improve the quality of the labour force. It also acknowledges significant challenges in the sector, including low rates of inclusion, poor secondary to tertiary transition rates, and a mismatch between skills and labour force needs. To this end, Government aims to invest 60 percent of mineral revenues in the development of physical and human capital.
The allocation of the largest share of the budget to education is a long-standing practice in Botswana, and the sector continues to receive the highest level of funding in the recurrent budget. Public expenditure on education has been steady over the past several years, averaging more than 20 percent of the total budget between 2014/15 and 2021/22, thus demonstrating that Government has, on aggregate, continued to exceed the international spending benchmark of 20 percent of the national budget for education.
In the 2021/22 budget, the Ministry of Basic Education was once more allocated the largest share (18.8 percent) of the proposed ministerial recurrent budget, amounting to P9.52 billion. The amount represents a growth of P510.84 million, or 5.7 percent, over the previous year’s approved budget, and mainly comprises the budgetary provision for creating some 1 751 new positions of teachers, in order to adhere to Covid-19 protocols in terms of reducing class size and social distancing in schools across the country. The proposed budget is mainly driven by personal emoluments for teachers and service charges, especially water and electricity in schools. Other costs associated with schools include provision of food, text books, material for practical subjects, and stationery.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Basic Education took the fourth-largest share of the proposed development budget at P1.61 billion, or 10.91 percent, in order to drive the transformation of Botswana into a knowledge-based economy. To cater for school digitalisation initiatives, the Ministry is to procure devices for ICT-based learning for all learners and teachers from Standard 5 to Form 5 level; roll out functional connectivity to all schools; develop and source e-Content for schools; train teachers and school managers on basic ICT skills and use of technology in teaching and learning; and outsource educational broadcasting programmes.
At the same time, the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science & Technology received P4.60 billion for the 2021/22 financial year, which represents the fifth- largest share (9.1 percent) of the proposed ministerial recurrent budget. The allocation caters for the tertiary students’ sponsorship programme, including allowances, tuition fees and medical expenses for Government- sponsored students enrolled in both public and private tertiary institutions. The proposed budget also includes staff and operational costs of tertiary institutions and parastatals under the Ministry. The allocation is geared towards providing appropriate education and training to students, so that upon completion of their studies they are able to become active players in the transition towards a knowledge-based economy.
Government continues to invest heavily in the future of Botswana’s youth, as seen in its commitments to Tertiary Education financing (P2.26 billion), the National Service Scheme (P135.72 million), Youth Development Fund (P104 million), and the Internship Programme (P98.83 million), among others.
In order to improve the quality of education, Botswana has adopted an outcome-based approach to facilitate the introduction of multiple pathways. This is kicking off at senior secondary schools in 2021 to enable students to pursue subjects aligned with their interests and capabilities.
The Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP), which ran from 2015 to 2020, addressed a number of key challenges in the education sector and provided an overall policy and strategic framework for education and training from pre-primary to tertiary level, focusing on improving the quality, management and relevance of education. Changes implemented under the ETSSP include: revision of curricula across all levels; up-skilling and motivation of teachers; increasing access to early childhood and pre-primary education as well as tertiary education; development of learner retention strategies; full integration of ICT in the management and delivery of education; and development of assessment systems to direct student choices at secondary school level.
Over the past few years, there has been rapid implementation of reform programmes under the ETSSP, with a view to promoting a competence or skill-based curriculum. As such, 38 subjects have been reviewed and developed. At the time of the 2020 State of the Nation Address in November 2020, Maun Senior Secondary School had been selected for Tourism and Hospitality, while Moeng College was identified for Horticulture, Crop and Animal Production.
The construction of facilities to prepare schools for these new pathways has already commenced. Assessment programmes aligned to the new curriculum are being developed and are expected to be completed by 2023. Syllabus development is taking place between October 2020 and March 2022 for junior schools, from November 2022 to April 2024 for primary schools, and from November 2024 to April 2026 for pre-primary schools.
Furthermore, a draft National Policy on Assessment for General Education as well as Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) has been completed and will guide examinations and assessments in the context of outcome-based education. The Botswana Teaching Professionals Council has been established to professionalise the teaching cadre and restore dignity to the profession.
The Department of Special Support Services in the Ministry of Basic Education is responsible for the development and review of policies, guidelines, strategies and interventions that guide the provision of Guidance and Counselling and Special Education Services. The department supports the inclusion of learners with diverse special needs to promote access and equity in education.
Botswana promotes universal access to ten years of basic education, which comprises seven years of primary education followed by three years of junior secondary education. In terms of the structure, pre-primary covers ages 4 to 5 years, primary 6 to 12 years, junior secondary 13 to 15 years, senior secondary 16 to 17 years, and tertiary education 18 years and above. The private sector plays only a minimal role, with the exception of early childhood learning.
The Basic Education Programme includes the provision of ICT facilities to improve teaching and learning through e-learning, and introduces a compulsory remediation programme to reduce the under-performance of learners at primary level and increase the number of learners attaining irreversible literacy and numeracy. This is coupled with initiatives for improving teaching and learning for better results in reading, mathematics and science in primary schools.
The Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) has laid a solid foundation for pre-primary level education through the development of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy Framework and the Early Childhood Education Programme. Government continues to partner with the private sector in the provision of pre- primary schooling in an effort to ensure learner readiness for Standard 1.
Since the implementation of the Early Childhood Education Programme, the number of public primary schools offering the one-year reception class programme has increased from 590 schools to 613, as at March 2020. This programme will be extended to all 143 remaining primary schools by 2022.
The shortage of learning materials and infrastructure are some of the main challenges for the programme. To alleviate the situation, Government provides grants to centres, playgroups and day-care centres owned by communities and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to assist children who are unable to benefit from the Government programme. In this context, Government partnered with 30 centres during the 2020/21 financial year.
It has been Government’s priority to ensure that all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to free and compulsory primary education of good quality. Despite the many advances which have been made, challenges remain; particularly in very remote areas where it is difficult to ensure that children are enrolled in school.
Primary education begins in Standard 1 and continues to Standard 7, at which time Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) are taken. Botswana has 826 primary schools, of which 755 (91.4 percent) are government schools and 71 (8.6 percent) are privately owned.
Learners begin three years of junior secondary education at the age of 13, (Forms 1 to 3), after which there are two years of senior secondary education (Forms 4 and 5). Pupils sit the Junior Certificate Examination (JCE) at the end of junior secondary and the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) at the end of senior secondary school. Currently there are 290 secondary schools, with government schools constituting 81.7 percent of the total and government-aided and private schools making up 1.4 and 16.9 percent, respectively.
The ETSSP has been implemented with a view to identifying the unique capabilities of learners and steering them towards areas where they can reach their full potential. This is seeing the phased adoption of the Outcome-Based Education System, with the introduction of the Education Pathway Model offering different pathways to learners at senior secondary level.
In order to digitalise education in support of the knowledge economy, ICT learning devices are being procured for all learners and teachers from Standard 5 to Form 5 level, connectivity is being extended to all schools, e-learning materials are being developed and teachers and school managers trained in basic ICT skills.
The expanded curriculum allows learners to choose between academic, professional and technical pathways with the first phase of the implementation having begun in January 2019. The strategy also focuses on the intensification and upscaling of school leadership, in- service teacher training, monitoring and evaluation, along with training and mentoring of school heads countrywide.
The provision of quality education cannot be realised without a conducive teaching and learning environment. In this regard, Government has made rigorous efforts to complete the cyclic maintenance of 30 schools, with maintenance ongoing at a further 22 schools. Some 31 projects are yet to commence, and will be implemented in the remaining years of NDP 11.
Under the expansion of junior secondary schools, four schools –Tsodilo, Maunatlala, Tshwaragano and Selolwe – have been completed, while work at Mphuthe Junior Secondary is at an advanced stage. The expansion of Goldmine and Bonwatlou junior secondary schools was scheduled for completion before the end of the 2020/21 financial year, while the plan for the expansion for Kalamare junior secondary is at design stage.
Government has also delivered 156 out of 191 targeted classrooms and 37 out of 54 science labs. Work on the remaining 35 classrooms and 17 science labs was expected to be completed by the end of November 2020.
In terms of accommodation provision for teachers, 444 staff houses have been built, while another 301 units have been procured from the Botswana Housing Corporation. Tenders for the provision of 412 porta cabin classrooms are still at evaluation stage.
As in the rest of the world, the emergence of Covid-19 has caused substantial disruptions within the education landscape, with the closure of schools and interruption in curriculum delivery across learning institutions. This has demanded robust plans to ensure continuity in the delivery of teaching and learning, without compromising the quality of education and the safety of both leaners and teachers.
Government has ramped up efforts to counter the spread and transmission of the virus in institutions of learning. Measures undertaken to contain the spread of the pandemic in schools include the following:
• Reduction in class sizes to a maximum of 30 learners and the introduction of shifts in schools
• Engagement of 3 000 temporary teachers to accommodate the increased number of classes
• Employment of Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) officers to ensure compliance with safety protocols
By November 2020, all public and private schools were adhering to the dictates of the Covid-19 safety protocols, and all Government schools had hand wash basins, soap, toilet paper, sanitizer, disposal bins and water tanks. The low numbers of actual cases of the virus in Botswana’s schools is testament to the commitment by educators to keep schools and children safe. The PSLE was delivered successfully, as were Junior Certificate and BGCE examinations.
Implementation of the Adult Basic Education Programme (ABEP) commenced in 2010, providing basic education to adults and youth to an equivalence of primary education. Courses run by the Department of Out-of-School Education and Training (DOSET) and the Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL) opened up opportunities for learners unable to access formal education. The Back-to- School Programme introduced in 2012 affords all learners who dropped out of school at any level the opportunity of re-admission into the school system.
During 2017, BOCODOL was transformed into the Botswana Open University, thereby increasing access to tertiary education and training. The expanded scope of programmes now offered by the university aims to cater for the diverse training needs of the economy.
The Special Education Department deals with the rising numbers of children presenting with a diverse range of special needs. Children living with disability are provided with diagnostic assessments through multi-disciplinary teams, comprising educational psychologists, speech and language therapists and low vision specialists, to guide in the appropriate placement for learners with special needs. The construction of a Centre for Severe and Multiple Disability in Maun commenced in February 2020 and is scheduled for completion by February 2022.
The RNPE Rec 7 had outlined provision of a pre-primary programme to run for at least two years prior to commencement of a formal primary education. This was to be provided by the Ministry of Basic Education in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD). This collaboration continues to incrementally roll out pre-primary education in primary schools. Further assistance was got from the Embassy of Japan and there has been a significant contribution in the support of provision of Early Childhood Education.
One of the key elements of a knowledge-based economy is the development of human capital by promoting access to a wide range of skills. The Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) was established in 2013, and in line with its five-year strategic plan (2016-2021) is working to produce globally competitive graduates and address the problem of skills mismatch.
The National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) promotes the establishment and coordination of institutional plans for public and private tertiary institutions, with specific reference to human resource development, research and innovation, and institutional capacity building. This has seen the establishment of the Innovation Fund, and capacity building for tertiary education institutions through HRDC Research Grants. In an endeavour to promote workplace learning and training, Government has established the Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF).
Government is currently developing a Labour Market Information System (LMIS) to facilitate disaggregation of education and employment statistics through linkages with other databases. These include the Integrated System for Civil Registration, Migration and Citizenship, Labour Administration (ISCRS), National Employment Services System, and the Government Unemployed Graduate database.
The Botswana Training Authority (BOTA), a parastatal organisation created to coordinate vocational education and training below diploma level, was transformed into the
Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) through the enactment of the Botswana Qualifications Authority Act No 24 of 2013. Objectives of the BQA are to provide for and maintain the National Credit and Qualifications Framework (NCQF), and coordinate the education, training and skills development quality assurance system. Registration and accreditation of institutions offering certificate level programmes is provided by BQA, while the HRDC processes accreditation applications for those offering diploma level programmes and above.
The NCQF ensures the classification of qualifications according to a set of criteria for specified levels of learning. Its main objectives are to promote quality in Botswana’s education and training system, guarantee portability of local qualifications and improve mobility of learners, and promote internal and external systems articulation.
Thanks to the strong commitment to enhancing quality assurance in the education system, all institutions of higher learning in Botswana have been registered with the BQA. A comprehensive review of Technical and Vocational Education and Training programmes has subsequently taken place in line with the National Human Resource Development Plan and the NCQF.
The department core mandate is to coordinate and provide basic education statistics, coordinate and conduct research, monitor and evaluate programmes and projects, and planning. The different units embarked on various projects with the intention to improve the quality of basic education.
The mandate of the Department of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (DTVET) is to promote lifelong learning to enable individuals to contribute to national socioeconomic and technological advancement.
Madirelo Training and Testing Centre (MTTC), the Construction Industry Trust Fund (CITF) and the Brigades have been merged in order to refocus the skills development function to ensure relevance, quality and credibility. Furthermore, Government has aligned vocational training to the NCQF, and relevant qualifications frameworks for new programmes have been developed. TVET institutions admit trainees with certificates equivalent to Level 5 of the NCQF.
The maintenance of Brigade institutions is ongoing, with four Brigades funded and completed in 2020, and maintenance for another 12 ongoing. The procurement of modern workshop equipment for Brigades and certificate-offering technical colleges is at an advanced stage. Tenders for equipment have been floated and the procurement process is underway.
The University of Botswana (UB) has grown vastly in size and scope since its establishment in 1982. Today it comprises three campuses and has a presence in ten other towns. The main UB campus in Gaborone occupies 115 hectares and boasts 4 514 multi-purpose classrooms and lecture theatres, main library and Faculty of Engineering and Technology library. The university has a student population of approximately 12 800, with around 11 percent of them pursuing part-time programmes.
The university’s six faculties comprise Business, Education, Engineering and Technology, Health Sciences, Humanities, Medicine, Science and Social Sciences, which offer full-time and part-time study programmes leading to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. In addition, there are research institutes and centres such as the Okavango Research Institute (ORI); Centre for the Study of HIV & AIDS; Centre for Culture and Peace Studies; Centre for International Tourism Research; Centre for Scientific Research, Indigenous Knowledge and Innovation (CESRIKI); Centre for Specialisation in Public Administration and Management (CESPAM); San Research Centre and Centre for Strategic Studies.
The Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA) has been transformed into the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN). The new university focuses on the practical applications of science and agro- related research.
As part of Government’s promise to rapidly diversify the economy, the CITF has begun to develop learning programmes for roads maintenance, fence erection and maintenance, furniture making and alternative building solutions. The establishment of Sojwe, Bokspits, Phitshane Molopo and Ncojane Rapid Skills Centres has begun.
The Senyawe, Nkange and Naledi Brigades were handed over to the CITF in September 2020, and training will commence once their accreditation has been finalised. The establishment of Shakawe and Khakhea centres is starting in the 2021/22 financial year.
Expansion and development activities over the past several years have seen construction of the new Faculty of Health Sciences, multidisciplinary offices, classrooms and lecture theatres as well as the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Indoor Sports Centre and Olympic-size swimming pool. The Medical School produced its first cohort of 33 doctors in 2014. On average, some 50 medical undergraduates are admitted to the MBBS programme annually.
UB’s 38th Graduation Ceremony, which was held on 6 November 2020, saw a record 28 graduates receive PhDs, while 368 were awarded MPhil, Masters and Post Graduate diplomas. A total of 1 885 undergraduates received degrees, while 159 received diplomas. The numbers represent a steady increase of both postgraduate and undergraduate students graduating.
Opened in July 2012, the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) is located in Palapye, 270 kilometres north of Gaborone. It is styled as a research-intensive university which aims to produce employment-ready engineers, scientists and technologists for Botswana. The intention is to refocus the country’s human resources development toward science and technology, producing a skilled and competent workforce that facilitates technology transfer and absorption, increases productivity in all sectors of the economy and helps to eradicate current imbalances between industry demands and skills.
BIUST’s fifth graduation ceremony was held remotely on 24 November 2020 and saw 373 graduates awarded degrees and doctorates.
BIUST comprises three colleges: Engineering and Technology, Sciences, and Information & Communication Technology. The Centre of Management, Entrepreneurship and General Studies offers Technical Writing and Academic Literacy to engineering and technology students as well as a Chinese Language and Culture course. The university produced its first graduates in November 2016, and has embarked on a seven-year strategic plan. Current enrolment stands at 1 881 students. At full capacity, BIUST will enrol approximately 6 000 full time equivalent (FTE) students, including undergraduate, MSc and PhD students.
On the recommendation by the Tertiary Education Policy that a comprehensive national distance education institution be established, the Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning was transformed into the Botswana Open University (BOU) in 2017. The University’s mandate is to make education accessible to all Batswana, especially out-of-school youth and adults, using Open and Distance Learning (ODL) methodology. Open learning seeks to break down the barriers to personal development by providing flexible learning environments, enabling people to study what is relevant to their needs, at a time and place convenient to them. BOU has its Headquarters in Gaborone, with campuses in Gaborone, Francistown, Palapye, Maun and Kang. Each campus serves as an administrative support centre for learners. The university’s offerings encompass school equivalency programmes, comprising Junior Certificate (JC) and Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE), as well as vocational, management and professional programmes at certificate, diploma, degree and postgraduate levels.
Established in 2007, Limkokwing University Botswana has transformed the country’s creative industry sector to embrace advertising, architecture, design, digital technology, fashion, film, music, performing arts, publishing, television, radio and video games. Limkokwing has a number of faculties, including Business Globalisation and Tourism Hospitality, Information Technology, Design and Innovation, Communication Media and Broadcasting, Architecture and Interior, and Creative Multimedia, Sound and Music. The Limkokwing Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (LEAP) endows students with the necessary skills for starting their own businesses. An extension of the university’s campus in Gaborone, Block 7 is equipped with high-tech facilities such as computer labs, multi-media labs, an e-library, library, and lecture halls.
BA ISAGO University, which was originally established as a university college in 2002, achieved university status in June 2015 following approval by the BQA. This citizen- owned private university now has a student population of over 3 000 across its three campuses in Maun, Francistown and Gaborone, as well as the Serowe Satellite Campus.
The university boasts four faculties; namely: Commerce, Education, Law and Para-legal Studies, and the Built Environment, Arts and Sciences, and has established a School of Graduate Studies and Research. It offers over 50 programmes at certificate, diploma, degree and post- graduate level; the majority of which are home-grown, with others being offered through collaborative partnerships with the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, ACCA, ICDL, UNISA’s Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL), UNISA’s Centre for Business Management (CBM), the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA), Botswana Institute of Bankers (BIOB), and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS).
BA ISAGO also offers short-term training programmes through its strategic business unit, the Centre for Professional Development and Consultancy (CPDC), which focuses on entrepreneurship, customised corporate training, project management, professional development and business consultancy.