Responding to public calls, the Public Accounts Committee wanted to know if the education ministry has ever considered harmonising private and public school calendars.
Arone stated in response that the ministry operates a school calendar, which is developed in conjunction with many stakeholders that include sports, exams, unions and also the association of private schools.
He said his ministry also considers input from the public and Parliament, which has influenced the longer winter closure to allow children a break when the weather is inclement. However, he pointed out that the ministry does not dictate that the private schools follow their calendar but operate in line with the education Act which specifies the minimum and maximum number of days a school should be open in a year.
“This allows schools to also choose curricula which may have a different examination period or cycle than our own Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) exams,” he said.
Asked if it would be ideal for private schools to determine their calendar, he conceded that it would be simpler if all schools followed the same calendar but it would be too restrictive for schools and not desirable.
Arone said schools should be allowed to offer different choices to parents who are free to choose.
“This has impact on family planning of holidays and a one size fits all is not allowing diversity,” he said.
order to enhance socialisation amongst school children from private and public schools, the minister said there is plenty of time for children to interact and socialise and changes in the school calendar are unlikely to make major impact in this area.
Concerning the idea to harmonise the school calendar to ensure easier planning, the minister said there are some families with children in both private and public schools and this is through choice.
He said such families if they wish to have consistency, then they have the options of placing both children in the same school either private or public.
A haphazard arrangement where each private school determines its calendar has been criticised for the ever-present traffic congestion, unlike when the calendar is harmonised with the believe that the roads will be less congested at a defined period.
Arone said traffic congestion is greater when schools are open and so if schools open and close on an ad hoc basis the general congestion will be less.
“The Christmas experience would still only happen when all schools are closed and for the rest of the year there will be varying levels of traffic. Peak traffic levels will increase if all schools open at the same time,” he said.
Arone went on to agree that the harmonised calendar would assist in co-curricular activities, but currently the private schools compete against themselves and have not joined public schools competitions.