According to the 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 educational needs are met, “wherever possible” in regular pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, vocational training programmes, colleges and universities.
Special education needs
Disadvantaged and vulnerable people are considered learners with special educational needs. The latter definition may include children and youth:
- from a very poor or deprived background or vulnerable or marginalised social group;
- residing in isolated circumstances;
- not being fluent in the language of instruction in school;
- having a developmental delay;
- having a disability;
- having emotional and behavioural difficulties;
- being affected by distressing or tragic circumstances.
In line with the 1994 Revised National Policy on Education (RNPE), 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. At present, there are 11 units for the mentally and physically impaired learners, three Resource Classes for students with visual impairments, and two units for the deaf. The Ramotswa Community Junior Secondary School provides education in special education units to hearing-impaired pupils. Special education is also provided in separated institutions by NGOs 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 either on a part-time or full-time basis.
The 1966 Constitution of Botswana, last amended in 2006, does not explicitly refer to the right to education but it 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 (RNPE) guides the development agenda of Botswana’s Education System and all other sectional policies are aligned to its objectives. Build on the RNPE, the 2011 Inclusive education Policy, launched in 2013, aims to introduce an inclusive education system that provides relevant and high quality education to all children, young people and adults. The Policy intends to implement innovative teaching and learning methods and a more flexible education approach to meet the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, benefitting at the same time all learners.
The 2011 Inclusive education Policy intends to set out a road map informing all education system. Inclusiveness and diversity have also been reaffirmed as main goals of the Education and training sector strategic plan 2015-2020. The latter identifies students in rural and remote areas, people with disabilities, and young people in urban settlements are the most challenged groups in terms of inclusion and equity in education.
The National Policy on Care for People with Disabilities dated back to 1997. Promoting the principle of care, socialisation and education, the Policy set out an exclusive system of special education. The 2011 Inclusive education Policy provided 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 NGOs.
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. The TVET colleges are expected to be equipped to target at learners with intellectual disabilities, the visually and hearing impaired. Assisted with modern technology, physical and sensory impaired students are supposed to be supported by trained staff and specialists. Additional investments in this direction are needed.
Replacing the 1996 Women in Development Policy (WID), the 2015 National Policy on Gender and Development (NPGAD) 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. The Equal Opportunities Policy has been drafted to promote equality of learning opportunities and elimination of any discrimination prescriptions.
The ETSSP 2015-2020 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 leads both girls and boys to not attend school. In this context, the back-to-school programme, implemented since 2013, aims to facilitate re-admission of children and youth due to pregnancy and absconding.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
As acknowledged in the ETSP 2015-2020, 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 object of debate; it 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 out to children and youth who cannot enroll in schools because of distance. The 2011 Inclusive education Policy has also encompassed the opportunity of transportation provision in this case.
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 NGOs has been developed by the Department for Out-of-School Education and Training (DOSET) 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 responsibility of the Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE) for education provision in the country is shared
- At the primary level with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLG&RD) who provides infrastructure development, learning resources and feeding programmes.
- At the secondary level with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing (MIHT) who is accountable for schools infrastructure development and maintenance for senior secondary schools;
- The MoBE is in charge for 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 of Out of School Education and Training (OSET) has the mandate to provide education and training that is accessible to out-of-school learners and 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-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and private providers.
A Gender Reference Committee, consisting of Departmental Gender Contact Persons, and chaired by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Regional Operations (DPO-RO) has been established to mainstream gender in the educational curricula, education programmes and practices.
Cooperation across government levels
The ETSSP 2015-2020 promotes decentralisation for the implementation of all education sub-sector programmes as long as building capacity at regional, district and school-base levels. Financial and operational accountability are expected to be decentralized. In particular, to increase efficiency in the TVET sub-sector, TVET multiple pathways responsibility within the regional structures is prioritised.
School buildings are prescribed 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 was revised accordingly.
Curriculum and learning assessment
The curriculum and teaching methods is expected to take into account the different abilities of the 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 the UNICEF’s Child Friendly Schools Initiative and Manual to enhance the development of more inclusive schools. As regards learning assessment, the ETSSP 2015-2020 calls for more formative and less summative methods from school based to external assessment by Botswana Examination Council.
Learning materials and ICTs
To enhance understanding of gender equality, public education materials have been developed on the topic and translated these into the local language for easy understanding.
With reference to ICTs in education, the 2004 Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Policy lays emphasis on the need of a supportive policy environment and framework. With the adoption of the Vision 2016 and 2036, 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 1994 Revised National Policy on Education recommends to train and provide remedial teachers in all primary schools. The Inclusive education Policy renames them Inclusive Educational Needs Coordinators and entrusts them with remedial teaching and support for all children with special educational needs. The pre-service teacher training (PRESET) and the 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 all range of children’s needs. Among the competence development, Alternative and Augmentative Communication modes such as Braille, 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 (LSWs), 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.
Since 2011, a unit has been 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 (ADEA)’s Working Group on Education Management and Policy Support (WGEMPS). According to the review, a clear legal mandate to collect information from all education institutions and bodies for educational statistical purposes was lacking. The Education Act indeed stipulates that Education Institutions are in charge to provide Annual Statistical to the Ministry.