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Analytical summary - Social determinants

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Besides health, education and employment can be considered to be important determinants of health status in Botswana as they influence access to resources and alleviate poverty. In addition, HIV/AIDS must be recognized as a threat that has reversed the gains that Botswana achieved after independence.

Botswana may have the highest public spending on education in the world, with the education sector taking an average of 25% of the total budget (10–11% of gross domestic product). The county’s education policy has long emphasized access to primary education and recently the Government of Botswana has embarked on 10 years of universal education and inculcation of skills to match the demands of the job market.

The net enrolment rates for primary school increased from 96.7% to 98.5% between 1995 and 2004. Non-school attendance in 2003 was 0.6% for the 10–11 year age group and 1.1% for the 12–14 year age group.

The number of teachers at primary schools has also improved and the percentage of unqualified teachers to total primary school teachers has fluctuated between 7% and 10%. The pupil to teacher ratio has improved steadily, with a national average of 31 in 1991 and 26 in 2004. The national literacy rate increased from 68.9% in 1993–1994 to 81.2% in 2003–2004, being slightly higher for females.

However, the rate of school progression has not been impressive, with only 79% of children enrolling in standard one in 1998 progressing to standard seven in 2004. There are concerns that the country may not be able to meet school enrolment targets in the near future as a result of the low population growth and high infant mortality rates. A 5% cost recovery fee that was introduced in 2006 may have had a negative impact on access to education.

Probably because of the poor yields from agriculture, particularly arable farming, Botswana has a relatively high formal sector employment and small subsistence agricultural sector. The formal employment sector has grown by an average of 27%, with the Government accounting for 38% of all formal employment labour. Even though the mining sector accounts for the largest share of gross domestic product, it accounts for a very low share of employment. Unemployment rates have remained over 20% but recently a rate of 17.6% (or 31.6% if we include those who have given up looking for jobs) has been reported.

Botswana’s achievements in education and employment, at a time when it seemed like the gains that had been achieved after independence would be reverse, have been possible because of the county’s unprecedented positive response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Government’s efforts have been complemented by a number of nongovernmental organizations, community-based organizations and community networks, as well as by financial and technical support from the international community.