News Analysis

REPORT EXTRACT: DAMNING WORLD BANK REPORT INTO LESOTHO EDUCATION SECTOR

Titled: Kingdom of Lesotho: Education Public Expenditure Review, the report reveals that:

  • The largest share of education spending is for recurrent expenses, with the Ministry of Education and Training spending almost 80 percent of its budget on staff.
  • Despite high spending on education and human resources, sector outcomes have been inadequate and inequitable especially in rural remote and mountainous areas of the country.
  • Poor planning and human resource management are the main causes of education sector failures.
  • Despite the resource constraint, operation and capital budget spending is often underspent due to complexity and lack of usability of the budget management system.
  • The bursary scheme for tertiary education is neither effective nor sustainable, and recovery from the schemes is urgent.
  • Education spending in Lesotho favours the rich.

High governmental spending in the education sector reflects the Government’s priority of providing free primary education. Lesotho spent about 10 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) for the education sector in fiscal year (FY) 2015/16 — more than other countries at the same level of income per capita.

Indeed, primary education receives the largest share of spending in accordance with the country’s provision of free primary education. However, when bursary spending through the Ministry of Development and Planning (MoDP) is included, tertiary spending is also high.

By contrast, spending on Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) is very low, as is secondary education spending.

Since the introduction of free primary education in the year 2000, the number of teachers has increased by 50 percent, contributing to lower student-teacher ratios notwithstanding the great geographical disparities.

With almost 15,900 teachers, Lesotho has achieved a student-teacher ratio of 30 for the country as a whole, with a ratio of 33 in primary schools and 25 in secondary schools — although with great variation across districts.

However, this is not particularly high in an international context. According to data from the World Development Indicators (WDI), the primary level student-teacher ratio is 55 in Mozambique and 34 in neighbouring South Africa, whereas in secondary schools it is 40 in Mozambique, 24 in Namibia, and 25 in South Africa.

The largest share of education spending is for recurrent expenses, with the Ministry of Education and Training spending almost 80 percent of its budget on staff.

High spending in the education sector appears to be driven by high teacher salaries further constraining limited resources, considering the country’s economic status as a lower-middle-income country, the high rate of unemployment among potential teachers, and the salaries paid to other public and private sector workers in Lesotho.
The average teacher salary in primary schools is 8 times the rate of per capita GDP, whereas in secondary schools it is over 11 times the rate of per capita GDP.

This compares with ratios of about 3 and 4 times the rate of per capita GDP, respectively, in other countries at a similar level of development (Lesotho Country Diagnostic Study 2016).

Despite high spending on education and human resources, sector outcomes have been inadequate and inequitable especially in rural remote and mountainous areas of the country.

This can be observed through the slow progression through the school system; poor scores in the international educational evaluation (the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring of Education Quality [SACMEQ]); uneven progression across districts to the highest school grades; and poor performance at the highest levels in the school-leaving examinations.

Student flows have stabilized, but with high repetition and dropout rates. The result is that only a small proportion of children reach the higher grades of secondary school. Poor children living in the deep rural, mountainous areas are particularly affected by weak learning in the early grades.

Pupils who remain in school until the end of primary school often face much greater difficulty in accessing secondary schools, given the high costs of secondary education.

Poor planning and human resource management are the main causes of education sector failures. The lack of an established/official list of teachers in schools has meant that there is no way to determine the real staffing needs in the field.

Unwarranted variations in student-teacher ratios for schools with similar enrollments are also closely linked with the lack of a coherent and consistent policy for appointing additional teachers or reducing teacher numbers in schools when enrollment declines.

For too long, the only incentives to become senior teachers have been higher salaries. However, these promotions have not been linked with any changes in teacher roles and responsibilities in schools.

In this regard, the Education Management Information System (EMIS) has been under-utilized as an important data source and tool for strategic management of the sector.

Despite the resource constraint, operation and capital budget spending is often underspend due to complexity and lack of usability of the budget management system. Given the overwhelming dominance of teacher salaries, there is limited discretionary spending within the school budgets.

However, despite the tight budget constraints that the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has imposed, the operational and capital budget have often been underspent. There are also many instances of deviation from the budget, and even from the revised budget.

One of the reasons for this is the extremely complex and fragmented budget management mechanism. There are a number of cost centers that fund staff and operational costs, as well as the costs of stationery and textbooks at the central and district levels.

Also, there appear to be many human management errors due to the lack of a reliable public financial management (PFM) system with adequate capacities.The bursary scheme for tertiary education is neither effective nor sustainable, and recovery from the schemes is urgent.

The national bursaries/loans accounted for between 2.5 and 4 percent of GDP between FY2011/12 and FY2016/17 (Nehmé 2017: 13). In 2014 they offered 17,300 bursaries to students studying in higher education institutions. Considering the low repayment rate (4 percent), it has become a de facto grant scheme.

When the bursary scheme spending is included in tertiary education, the state spends much more on a tertiary than on a secondary student (World Bank 2015).

Education spending in Lesotho favors the rich. For each 100 Lesotho Maloti that the government spends per student in primary education, it spends 165 per student in secondary education and 326 per student in tertiary education.

This makes education spending highly regressive and unequal, considering that only a small number of students reach tertiary education. For instance, for every 100 students that complete their primary education, only 36 complete their secondary education and 5 complete their tertiary education.

This strongly favors the richest quintiles. According to data from the Lesotho Demographic and Health Survey, amongst the poorest quintile the net attendance ratio of 13-17-year-old in secondary education was only15 percent, whilst this was 72 percent amongst the richest quintile. NW

This Public Expenditure Review (PER) is the result of a collaboration among the World Bank Group, and Lesotho’s Ministries of Education and Finance, and is designed to inform Lesotho’s effort in expanding access to quality education services — while operating in a highly fiscally constraint environment.

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