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Botswana could become Africa’s education hub

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RICHARD MOLEOFE

This year’s budget speech is a clear reflection that the government still does take education very seriously. Allocating more money to this sector is a very good move because it is an investment in the country’s most critical asset and that is its human resources.
In his response to the budget speech, Hon. Ndaba Gaolatlhe put much emphasis on investing in the country’s human capital. The primary way of doing what Gaolatlhe has suggested is by making sure that the Ministry of Education is adequately funded.
One of the things that made former President Ketumile Masire a hero by all measure was his focus on the education sector. His administration invested heavily in education and by so doing growing the country’s human resource capacity.
Masire was smart in his approach to the country’s path to development. He used both his position and experience well and this was a rare combination. As a former teacher, Masire became the country’s first Minister of Finance and Development Planning. He pushed the envelope to the right place which is education.
What Masire did for this country was literally to pivot its history. Successive administrations have not at any time underfunded the education sector. Regardless of the continued long held tradition of sufficiently funding education, the results are otherwise telling a different story.
The problem with successive administrations is that they just kept the Masire tradition without following its spirit. A lot of funds that went into the education sector have been wasted and in some cases unaccounted for. Because of poor planning, our government at one point found its hands full with students who had passed well enough to proceed to tertiary at the turn of the century. The answer was to send them en mass to South African universities and technical colleges.
Instead of fixing the mistake by building more new government institutions, those close to power were allowed to run parallel businesses in the industry. These are far below the standards that government has either at the University of Botswana or Botswana College of Agriculture.
The government needed to have invested the funds in building more universities than we can need as a population. The excess spaces would attract students from elsewhere in the region of Southern Africa. Regardless of what the university may offer, the structural appearance of buildings and other facilities such as sports fields count for a lot more.
The University of Botswana and Botswana International University of Science and Technology are proving to be a worthwhile investment. The buildings are magnificent and because of this we have seen the two institutions attracting students from many parts of Africa. BIUST has students from as far away as Ghana in West Africa.
Similarly, UB has attracted students from many countries in Africa. One of this university’s strategies was to focus on specialized courses such as Information Studies which has been running for more than three decades now.
But the way the UB has treated its foreign students this past week shows that we are not serious about attracting the rest of Africa and the world to come and share the quality of our education.
Regardless of what transpired at UB, the university council must have come to its senses and know that it is not all students who participated in the “poaching” of a zebra and other misdemeanour acts that prompted the closure of the institution.
However, the administration should have made a reasonable arrangement for foreign students who have nowhere to go after being given an unreasonable thirty minutes’ ultimatum. This was the worst thing we could do to de-campaign our good education.

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