- Government needs 950 million Pula for improved schools infrastructure - World Bank Report

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) plans to address the challenge of classroom shortages by rolling out the construction of porta cabins in schools. Porta cabins are cheaper and quicker to construct than brick and mortar structures. MoESD Assistant Minister Aubrey Lesaso recently revealed that the ministry has already identified 92 junior secondary schools to benefit from this initiative and there is already progress.

"About 100 porta cabins have already been supplied and 314 are in the process of procurement, while a further 88 are awaiting approval and 30 have been re-tendered and the tendering process is currently open," he said.

Lesaso said that the porta cabins would arrest the current urgent challenge of classroom shortages in schools because it is cheaper and the ministry is operating on a shoestring budget, which has made it difficult to meet the budgetary requirements for the demand for classrooms.

Currently, many schools have classrooms that are in a dilapidated state; broken windows, old and hanging roofing, chipping paint, and haggard doors and walls. Some schools have a high number of learners but not enough classroom buildings, which has resulted in learners having to take shifts for lessons, while others take lessons in the open.

A Public Expenditure Review (PER) assessment on Basic Education carried out by the World Bank two years ago indicated that the acute shortage of infrastructure is an urgent concern affecting the education sector in Botswana.

The PER report further advised Government to shift focus from training teaching personnel to spend on critical needs in infrastructure development and provision of textbooks in public schools. The report further indicated that eliminating the classroom shortage will require significant public resources.

It would cost around P950 million to build the required 1,900 classrooms in primary schools (based on the ETSSP’s average cost per classroom of P0.5 million) and the Department of Technical Services within MOBE estimates construction and maintenance needs at P2 083 million in secondary education.

An excerpt from the report also notes that assuming a ten-year period to eliminate the backlog of classrooms and purchase additional textbooks, annual recurrent costs would likely increase by around P300 million, and the annual development budget would increase by an estimated P600 million.

The World Bank report also argued that in the context of Botswana’s public finances, the challenge faced by policymakers is not necessarily related to reducing spending, but rather on increasing efficiency.