The 2018 tertiary education statistics released this week by the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) in partnership with Statistics Botswana show that the number of students enrolled in tertiary institutions increase every year despite current high numbers of unemployed graduates.
The happiness of attaining a qualification at tertiary education level has turned into a nightmare for many of university alumni in Botswana as the job market fails to absorb all of the graduates.
Statistics Botswana recently released Labour Force Module report for Q3 2019 showing that the graduate joblessness rate stands at 9.6% in addition to 26% of youth unemployment rate. The 2018 figures released by the HRDC indicate that the number of graduates immensely increased from 6 431 in 2013 to 15 5594 in 2014 and declined slightly to 13 621 in year 2017.
“The increase could have been necessitated by the Government’ initiative to upgrade primary and junior secondary school teachers from the level 5 (diploma) to level 6 (degree). As a result, there was an increase in graduates for number Bachelors’ degree programmes more especially around fields of Education, Sciences and Humanities and Arts degrees,” reads the 2018 report.
In addition, the Social Sciences, Business and Law courses dominated the highest enrolments over the years but the employments prospects of their graduates is not improving.
A university education was often seen as a reliable pathway to a goof career or a comfortable life but this pathway seems to be crumbling with the ongoing weakness in the local job market. HRDC CEO Dr Raphael Dingalo said there is a high need for government to reform tertiary education funding model saying government has been directing a bulk of funding towards Social Sciences fields.
Dr Dingalo said technical and vocational education offers government a good opportunity to invest on indicating that more funds should be channeled in Science related disciplines too. “Government funds the social sciences related courses and this has not worked because their job market seems to be saturated more. Also, there is a need to raise admission for Masters and PHDs,” he averred in interview on sidelines of report dissemination workshop on Tuesday.
According to the report, total enrollment in tertiary education institutions in 2017/18 was 59 243 of which 5,793 were enrolled in brigades which are currently on the verge of collapsing. A bulk of students were enrolled in undergraduate programmes, as a total of 3 031 were enrolled in post graduate programmes out of which 2 263 were enrolled for Masters and 193 in PHD field.
A report released also by HRDC in 2016 titled “Tertiary Education at a Glance” indicated that enrollment is by government technical colleges is very low and is not rising in any crucial ways .
According to the report, this means that technician level training I Botswana has a very low the tertiary enrollments given that Botswana is a growing economy that needs all various kinds of technicians in the critical skill areas like Electronics, Construction and engineering to name few.
Efforts to reach Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology Dr Douglas Letsholathebe to get his views on statistics were futile as his mobile phone was not answered.
In their joint study titled ‘‘The Elusive Search for Employable Graduate: The Case of Botswana’’ Dr Patrick Molutsi and Mogotsa Kewagamang argue that Botswana has lost great opportunities presented in early years of independence to diversify its school curriculum for it to be relevant.
The study findings indicate that by emphasizing ‘‘elitist’’ curricula, the country has created a dilemma where vocational and technical education has become lowly rated or perceived as ‘‘education of poor school performers’’ or education of the last resort for the uneducated. Dr Molutsi and Kewagamang study recommended that in order to fix high unemployment level among graduates, there is need to adopt the policies or strategies by that would make a higher education graduate more skilled to make maximum use of a modern difficult Labour markets.
University of Botswana (UB) two academics Dr Mpho Pheko and Dr Kaelo Molefhe also conducted a study titled “Addressing employability challenges: a framework for improving the employability of graduates in Botswana’’. They established that while the students at tertiary education might be aware of the general employability skills, they may not be aware of the most important employability skills that are critical for their entrance into and performance in the evolving competitive labour market.
Previously, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has pointed out that the lack of skills in the labour force and skill mismatches have been the most serious challenge, compounded by an overly strict policy on permits for foreign workers and high wages in Botswana public sector.