Just before their meeting withMinister of Education and SkillsDevelopment (MoESD) DrPelonomi Venson-Moitoi and herPermanent Secretary, Grace Muzilato address the bookstore issue togetherwith the drama surroundingprogression, re-sits and retake sponsorships,the University of Botswana(UB) Student Representative Council(SRC) called upon all governmentsponsored students not to purchasebooks from the Books Botswanabookstore until further notice.According to a press release fromthe SRC offi ce issued on Mondaymorning, they were surprised thatthe UB management and the MoESDhad silently gone behind their backsand credited the book allowance intheir identity cards while the negotiationswere still yet to be concludedin a meeting they were scheduled tohave with Venson-Moitoi and Muzilalater on the same day (Monday).
“We have gone to places such asSouth Africa to benchmark on issuessurrounding the bookstore. Wehave recommendations as to what isthe best model to adopt to avoid skyrocketing prices and the monopolythat has been enjoyed by this bookstorefor years. One of the recommendationsis that student identitycards be made visa electronic so thatthey can be able to swipe any learningmaterial in any bookstore acrossthe country. This will force the bookstoreto offer competitive prices andprovide value for money. The otheroption was to credit the book allowancein the students’ FNB accountsso that they can have the fi nancialliberation,” it reads.In February this year, LimkokwingUniversity of Creative Technologystudents boycotted classes demandingexplanations as to why their bookallowances were not yet credited intotheir accounts and decried lack of academicmaterial at the campus bookstore,which is also run by BooksBotswana.
The student communitytook to the streets to express their unhappiness,a move which resulted intheir SRC president, Poloko Pitlwanebeing expelled from the institution.The students expressed grief thatsince the school management, SRCand the Department of Tertiary EducationFinancing (DTEF) enteredinto an arrangement to credit half oftheir book allowances to the bookstoreaccount, their studies have beenbadly affected complaining that thebookstore just exists but it is not addingany value to their studies.Meanwhile, the UB SRC met withMuzila on Monday and the meetingbrought a glimmer of hope for thestudents. They agreed in principlethat students will be given book allowancein cash. According to SRCvice president, Tiro Diepo, the ministrywill consult with the Universityon whether it is viable to give studentstheir book allowances directlyrather than crediting student cardsand close the bookstore.
He washowever optimistic that the Universitywill favour the model they proposedas it sponsored them to benchmarkat University of Johannesburg,Wits University, University of NorthWest and University of Pretoria.Diepo further said shall they succeed,only students who have notswiped with their cards will benefi tfrom the new arrangement.He further said they were surprisedto see students swiping books at thestore on Monday morning whilethey expected to conclude negotiationswith the Ministry fi rst. He saida while ago Muzila said they shouldcome up with alternative models butwere surprised that her Ministry paidthe allowances into the cards beforethey could meet.On the sponsorship confusion,Diepo said DTEF has been practicingpolicies the Ministry is unaware of,denying qualifying students’ sponsorship.
He said they have agreed inprinciple that all completing studentsbe sponsored for retakes and re-sits.He also said Muzila told them that allprogression students are being sponsoreddespite DTEF holding an opposingview.In June, DTEF announced that“for the 2013 Placement Cycle; repeat,retake, reinstatement and re-sitsponsorships will only be granted tocompleting students who have notbenefi tted from the same before:those left with no more than two semestersto graduate. This does not includestudents who sat for their fi nalexaminations in April/May 2013 andfailed some modules; progressionapplicants have been deferred to thenext sponsorship cycle. Assessmentof applications will be done in linewith sponsorship guidelines.
However,those who have already appliedand qualify will be given prioritywhen progression sponsorship isgranted.”Venson-Moitoi reportedly toldParliament last week that they arenot aware of any students that wereturned down by the Ministry on accountof insuffi cient funds. As far asthey are concerned all of the abovecategories of students are beingsponsored. They have undertaken toinvestigate reports that offi cials at theMinistry have been refusing somequalifying students sponsorship.