Parents forced to fork money from own pockets for textbooks, computers

Gone are the days when learners in public schools received textbooks and notebooks for free, as nowadays there are acute shortages which force parents to dig deep into their pockets to buy these necessities.

Since schools re-opened, the acute shortage of resources has not gone unnoticed.

Botswana Sectors of Teachers and Educators Union (BOSETU) secretary general, Tobokani Rari bemoaned the situation in most schools to media, pointing out that there is shortage of resources, which could affect the learning process.

"There is the challenge of textbook shortage in schools. There is also a shortage of staff, particularly teachers, after Government laid off some teachers last year," he noted.

It has been business as usual in schools and no word is out on when there would be a new roll-out of books or whether new teachers would be absorbed into the education sector to meet demand, especially as some schools have been forced to rotate teachers or for teachers to double teaching certain subjects.

An education insider who spoke on condition of anonymity said the challenge sometimes impede learning efforts and it is upon parents to meet Government halfway.

"Unlike before, parents cannot solely depend on Government. They also have to contribute to their children's education and this could mean buying them a laptop or any required textbooks to make their learning process easier."

One school in Gaborone has computers but no keyboards. Although school management would not be drawn into discussing the issue, one concerned parent who did not want their identity revealed said that resource shortage forced learners to share textbooks or photocopy content from books.

"I have been forced to buy textbooks for my child to only use at home. I have spent close to P2000 on textbooks and other learning material for my child to use at home and at tutoring classes," the parent said.

Most public schools do not have fully-fledged libraries and use part of their classrooms as rudimentary libraries. In most cases, learners share textbooks in groups of two to four during lessons and have to copy out notes and exercises before returning them at the end of the teaching lesson.

Last year in Parliament, Assistant Minister of Education Naniki Makwinja concurred that there are challenges of resource shortage in schools especially shortage of textbooks but emphasised that parents play a pivotal role in the education of their children, as such they should also pull their weight and ensure that they help.

A most recent Public Expenditure Review (PER) report by the World Bank indicates that areas that need more attention in the education sector includes increasing the number of teachers, purchase of textbooks and the building of new additional classrooms to meet the growing number of learners in schools, particularly in urban areas.

For the period of 2022/2023, there was P343.66 million over the current year’s approved budget. The proposed budget included teachers’ salaries, provision for new teacher positions to absorb 3 509 temporary teachers on a full-time basis amongst other costs.

The report indicated that it would cost Government approximately P950 million to build the required 1900 classrooms to meet demand of shortages across the country, about P208.3 million for construction and maintenance in secondary schools, and approximately P20 million to secure all the required computers and textbooks.

The report indicates that to remove the backlog in resource shortage, and meet demand would require an increase in the budget of about P300 million, while the annual development budget would increase to P600 million.

It further highlighted that most importantly, the issue in terms of budget in the public finances allocated to education is not necessarily increasing the budget amount or spending, but rather, increasing efficiency.

The World Bank report findings also show that there is a challenge of high public education expenditure and access in Botswana, but high failure rates; that there is rampant success narratives and pronouncements without commitment to educational effectiveness and efficiency, and massive construction of public schools, but poor teaching–learning conditions, as well as a culture of trivialisation of meaningful education reforms.