The Botswana National Front (BNF) is concerned by the problems that continue to besiege our Education system. Almost every other week there are reports of unresolved issues and conflicts between the government of this Republic through the Education ministry and the people it is supposed to serve. The Ministry of Education has shown itself unable to devise creative solutions. Education is society’s investment in its human capital for its own development and progress. Education has to do with socialisation of a generation on the ethos, norms and societal values. It introduces and opens up the world to a new generation. It is about developing inquisition, knowledge and neologism.
Though not exhaustive, these are critical tools for any progressive development. We cannot have advanced levels of development without a high quality education system. The system should be such that it is easily accessed by all equally. In the Botswana admission criteria, examinations and progression have been a hindrance. The current University of Botswana student’s class boycott is essentially over these issues. The Education System or regime in this country has become an enemy of progress. It has become a destructive Tsunami that is brewing instability. The real problems revolve around the relationship between UB, the state and the ruling party and the degree of influence the student community wields. The BDP is worried that this is one of the few communities that it has over the years failed to control. It is always suspicious of the students and it is always looking for an opportunity to teach them a lesson or two through use of the coercive arm of government. It sees them as troublemakers.
1. Sponsorship crisis- The Ministry of Education recently made an undertaking in Parliament to sponsor all completing students with retakes. This was after a motion by MP Wynter Mmolotsi in 2011 for government to sponsor students retakes. What is now happening on the ground is a completely different story. The Ministry or the sponsor has not sponsored such students as expected yet the UB registration period lapsed last week Friday.What is needed to sponsor these students is small change compared to the money that has gone down the drain in Morupule B or the Energy scandal. It is nothing when compared with the losses from the Palapye Glass project. The list is endless because we have a reckless government.
2. Book allowance saga- Students study on a government Loan which they have to repay after graduating. It is unfair and autocratic to force students to purchase study material at a particular book store which is operating as a monopoly. It remains to be seen what the Competition Authority will say on this purely anti-competition behaviour by the Botswana Government through the University of Botswana. We are disappointed that a year after the UB SRC reported this matter to the Competition Authority a ruling has not been delivered. The continued protection of the Book store in question is disturbing. This monopoly is hurting the students’ purchasing power as monopoly inflates prices.
3. Supplementary examinations- The University of Botswana management continues to ignore calls by the students for the re-introduction of the much needed supplementary examinations to decrease high failure rates within the University. The UB Senate has agreed to the re-introduction but nothing has been done on the ground.
Students fail because of a number of reasons. At times it is because they are not well informed about the career paths available to them but not because there is a bar on campus located at 411.There is therefore need to give them a chance to re-sit for the examinations so that they can progress to the next year. They really should not spend a longer time than necessary to attain their degrees. It is also a waste of resources.
4. Appointments to UB council- Appointment of individuals to positions in society should by their very nature not attract controversy, otherwise the decisions that come from the very institutions they are appointed to shall forever remain controversial. The appointment of Mr Parks Tafa and Mr Anthony Khama by the minister who is known to be very close to His Excellency President Khama has stirred controversy. Tafa is Khama’s (the President) lawyer and UB legal advisor. Of course Anthony is Khama’s brother. Their appointments, coming on the back of other appointments of people who are close to Khama; the president, mark a trend that is marginalising those who are not close to the President.
5. Victimisation of student leaders- We call upon the UB Administration to desist from its tendency of victimising student leaders. The BNF believes that there should be immunity for student leaders who implement lawful resolutions of the student community.
In the past student leaders have been victimised for just being the servants and messengers of the student community.
In a situation where the students feel that their concerns are not taken seriously, they decided to boycott classes. We urge the UB Administration and the Ministry of Education to engage the students with a view to finding a lasting solution.
Cde Moeti Mohwasa
BNF Information and Publicity Secretary