According to the country’s 2011 inclusive education policy, an inclusive education system addresses ‘the needs of all, including those with special educational needs, regardless of their gender, life circumstances, health, disability, stage of development, capacity to learn, level of achievement, financial or any other circumstances.’
Informed by the principles of non-exclusion, an inclusive education system ensures that children, young people and adults can learn effectively as long as their special education needs are met, ‘wherever possible’ in regular preschools, primary and secondary schools, vocational training programmes, colleges and universities.
Special education needs
Disadvantaged and vulnerable people are considered learners with special education needs. The latter definition may include children and youth:
- From a very poor or deprived background or vulnerable or marginalized social group
- Residing in isolated circumstances
- Not fluent in the language of instruction in school
- Having a developmental delay
- Having a disability
- Having emotional and behavioural difficulties
- Affected by distressing or tragic circumstances.
In line with the 1994 Revised National Policy on Education, Botswana is committed to implementing inclusive education, but special education continues to be provided under certain circumstances.
Special education units within regular schools are targeted at learners with special needs and disability, transitioning into regular education provision. As of 2017, there were 11 units for mentally and physically impaired learners, three resource classes for students with visual impairments and two units for the deaf. Ramotswa Community Junior Secondary School provides education in special education units to hearing-impaired pupils. Special education is also provided in separated institutions by non-government organizations and private actors.
In exceptional cases, such as long-term illness, very severe disability or very remote living conditions, basic education can be provided according to a specialized formula on either a part-time or a full-time basis.
The 1966 Constitution of Botswana, last amended in 2006, does not explicitly refer to the right to education but contains provisions about the non-discrimination principle, while the 1966 Education Act, amended in 2003, is the main the legal document regulating the education sector.
As overarching policy, the 1994 Revised National Policy on Education guides the development agenda of Botswana’s education system and all other sectional policies are aligned to its objectives. Building on that policy, the 2011 inclusive education policy, launched in 2013, aimed to introduce an inclusive education system that provides relevant and high-quality education to all children, young people and adults. The policy intended to implement innovative teaching and learning methods and a more flexible education approach to meet the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups while benefiting all learners.
The inclusive education policy aimed to set out a road map informing the entire education system. Inclusiveness and diversity were reaffirmed as key goals in the 2015–20 education and training sector strategic plan. The latter identifies students in rural and remote areas, people with disabilities and young people in urban settlements as the most challenged groups in terms of inclusion and equity in education.
The National Policy on Care for People with Disabilities dates to 1997. Promoting the principles of care, socialization and education, the policy set out an exclusive system of special education. The 2011 inclusive education policy marked a breakthrough in the education system, including learners with disabilities into regular schools. Children with profound and multiple disabilities receive education through specific programmes or through home education programmes provided by the Ministry of Health, with the support of the Ministry of Basic Education and non-government organizations.
Specifically related to vocational and education training, the revision of the programmes has taken into consideration the needs of potential trainees with disabilities and impairments. Technical and vocational colleges are expected to be equipped to target learners with intellectual disabilities and the visually and hearing impaired. Assisted with modern technology, physically and sensory-impaired students are to be supported by trained staff and specialists. Additional investments in this direction are needed.
Replacing the 1996 Women in Development Policy, the 2015 National Policy on Gender and Development provides a framework for mainstreaming gender in all sectors, including social protection and social services, which in turn advocate for the promotion of access to quality education, training and information. An ‘equal opportunities’ policy has been drafted to promote equality of learning opportunities and elimination of any potential source of discrimination.
The 2015–20 education and training sector strategic plan acknowledges the need to incorporate gender aspects into the sector planning and to implement gender-targeted interventions. In particular, it has been reported that pregnancy is one of the main reasons for female students’ dropouts, while truancy is a main reason why both girls and boys do not attend school. In this context, a back-to-school programme, implemented in 2013, aims to facilitate re-admission of children and youth due to pregnancy and absconding.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
As acknowledged in the 2015–20 education and training sector strategic plan, mother-tongue instruction has not yet been adequately addressed. At present, English and Setswana are the official languages of instruction. The instruction of other languages in primary education has been the subject of debate and would imply a revision of the current language policy. However, teacher aides have been employed in schools to assist learners in mother-tongue teaching and learning.
People living in rural or remote areas
Mobile school units were expected to be implemented to reach children and youth who cannot enrol in schools because of distance. The 2011 inclusive education policy called for transportation provision for learners unable to travel the distance to school.
A permanent joint initiative of the Ministry of Basic Education, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Social Services Department of the Ministry of Local Government, parents and non-government organizations has been developed by the Department for Out-of-School Education and Training in collaboration with UNICEF. It addresses children who have been out of school for more than a year, providing flexible education based on an alternative curriculum.
Cooperation across sectors
The Ministry of Basic Education shares the responsibility for education provision in the country as follows:
- At the primary level, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development provides infrastructure development, learning resources and feeding programmes.
- At the secondary level, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing is accountable for infrastructure development and maintenance for senior secondary schools.
- The Ministry of Basic Education is in charge of curriculum development, teaching and learning, assessment, teacher recruitment and management and for junior secondary education infrastructure development and maintenance.
Within the Ministry of Basic Education, the Department for Out-of-School Education and Training has the mandate to provide education and training that is accessible to out-of-school learners and to create opportunities for lifelong learning.
As stressed by the 2011 inclusive education policy, the implementation of the inclusive education system requires coordination and cooperation between the Ministry of Basic Education, other ministries, non-government organizations and private providers.
A Gender Reference Committee, consisting of departmental gender contact persons and chaired by the deputy permanent secretary of regional operations, has been established to mainstream gender in education curricula, programmes and practices.
Cooperation across government levels
The 2015–20 education and training sector strategic plan promotes decentralization for the implementation of all education sub-sector programmes as well as building capacity at regional, district and school-based levels. Financial and operational accountability are expected to be decentralized. In particular, to increase efficiency in the technical and vocational education and training sub-sector, the plan prioritizes multiple pathways of responsibility within regional structures.
According to the inclusive education policy, school buildings are required to be accessible to all. In order to ensure access to persons with disabilities, they need to be provided with ramps, high-visibility strips and picture signs. The 1981 Building Control Regulations were revised accordingly.
Curriculum and learning assessment
The curriculum and teaching methods are expected to take into account the different abilities of learners, recognizing that they have all different levels of ability and need tailored support. Alternative curricula are supposed to be developed as part of the provision of a flexible, relevant curriculum framework. Botswana is committed to implementing UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Schools Initiative and Manual to enhance the development of more inclusive schools. As regards learning assessment, the 2015–20 education and training sector strategic plan calls for more formative and less summative methods in school-based and external assessment by the Botswana Examination Council.
Learning materials and ICT
To enhance understanding of gender equality, public education materials have been developed on the topic and translated into Setswana, the local language, to promote understanding.
With reference to ICT in education, the 2004 Information Communication and Technology Policy lays emphasis on the need for a supportive policy environment and framework. With the adoption of the Vision 2016 and 2036 plans, the development of a new policy has been discussed to serve as a catalyst for the general social, economic, political and cultural transformation of the country.
The Revised National Policy on Education recommends training and providing remedial teachers in all primary schools. The inclusive education policy renames these teachers inclusive educational needs coordinators and entrusts them with remedial teaching and support for all children with special education needs. The pre-service teacher training programme PRESET and UNICEF’S Child-Friendly Schools in-service training are examples of teacher education initiatives promoting inclusive education.
A revised programme of in-service teacher training is planned to be rolled out to provide teachers with specific skills to address the full range of children’s needs. Within competence development, alternative and augmentative communication modes such as Braille and sign language are included in the training programme. Existing pre-service and in-service professional development in special needs is required to be evaluated, expanded and improved to align it with inclusive education principles.
With reference to support personnel, the number of teacher aides, renamed learning support workers, is planned to be increased as their role is considered pivotal for the effective implementation of inclusive education. Their training is expected to be formalized and their recruitment encouraged among ethnic minority groups.
In 2011, a unit was established within the Department of Educational Planning, Research and Statistics of the Ministry of Basic Education to carry out education management information system (EMIS) activities. In 2013, the country participated in the elaboration of an EMIS assessment framework and in a regional peer-review initiative supported by the Southern African Development Community’s EMIS Technical Committee with the assistance of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa’s Working Group on Education Management and Policy Support. According to the review, a clear legal mandate to collect information from all education institutions and bodies for education statistical purposes was lacking. The Education Act stipulates that education institutions are in charge of providing annual statistics to the ministry.