Following the suspension of students at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) for allegedly instigating a class boycott recently, Student Representative Councils (SRC’s) from tertiary institutions around Gaborone have decided to form a national student union to tackle student issues collectively. According to Poloko Pitlwane, suspended LUCT SRC President, the setting up of the union is a work in progress. He said the association will be led by representatives from SRCs in tertiary institutions around the country. Pitlwane said the respective SRCs will contribute money on behalf of their student bodies to run the association. He also said they will have four Parliamentarians from different political parties to support and advise the union. Tertiary students in Botswana are faced with challenges including unqualified staff, poor libraries, unavailability of teaching materials and physical space at their respective institutions.
Pitlwane said the students in their institutions are not happy with the fact that SRC constitutions are setup by institutional management; he said the union will also tackle such issues as a collective. He also said they will advocate for active sporting activities in the tertiary institutions. “At the mo-ment, some of the institutions do not have sporting facilities and equipment, we want those to be setup,” he said. University of Botswana (UB) SRC Vice President Tiro Diepo said the union will assist in tackling tertiary students’ grievances collectively as they are similar. “We all face similar challenges like book allowances, living allowance and accommodation as tertiary students, so it is unreasonable to seek solutions individually while we can strengthen our voices collectively,” he said.
The idea of a national student union is said to have failed in the past due to some SRCs accusing other institutions of having a big brother mentality as well as lack of funding and lack of continuity. According to former UB SRC President Jacques Kelebeng, the students from different institutions were not united in the past, with others trying to form associations while others wanted a union. He also said the issue of continuity is a problem as students spend only a year as SRC members which is not enough to make an impact. Kelebeng said he hopes this one will work out as the students seem united.
On a related issue, Pitlwane said he was not happy with Dr Pelonomi Venson Moitoi’s intervention on re-instatement of the LUCT suspended students. He said he hoped Venson Moitoi would be involved in advocating for their re-instatement instead of asking LUCT to speed up the disciplinary hearing process awaiting the students. Moitoi has asked LUCT to speed up disciplinary hearing process for the 15 suspended LUCT SRC members.