I would like to highlight and deliberate further on student politics in a sober manner as a former Student Representative Council minister in one of the local tertiary intuitions. From observation and experience during my tenure, I am inclined to say that there is a need for a National Tertiary Student Representatives Union (NTSRU). While a Student Representative Council is a student senate dedicated to social, organizational activities, representation and academic support of its membership being the students , a National Tertiary Student Representative Union (NTSRU) on the other hand should be the supreme overseer of all Tertiary Student Representative Councils within a particular state or country by affiliation.
It is within such a structure as the NTSRU that substantial issues of national student concern are discussed by all affiliate Tertiary Student Representative Councils. The Union’s purpose should solely focus on providing advice to the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) on solutions to problems faced by students of Botswana and how the Government can assist them. It will serve as the collective voice of Botswana tertiary students by presenting issues deemed necessary for a smooth academic environment before a panel headed by either the minister or Permanent Secretary of MoESD.
What is important is to highlight that in Botswana, the University of Botswana Student Representative Council (UBSRC) is a politicized student body. This has over the years differentiated itself from other student representative councils in the country, as others (SRCs) are not involved with partisan politics. Nevertheless, student councils have generally similar aims irrespective of the extent of politicization, usually focusing on providing students with facilities, support and services.
The individuality of SRC’s combined with the youthful enthusiasm of its members often misleads them into making decisions on issues which are not well articulated, thus rendering them prone to malicious treatment by their respective institution managements.
The NTSRU should be vested with the responsibility to guard against fellow members beingmistreated, unjustly dismissed from school and any sabotage that may arise, including the ability to suspend its affiliates from duty if their conduct may be viewed and agreed upon by the appointed leadership of the Union as not befitting a student leader or council member .
The Union further should concern itself with all issues that threaten the congenial atmosphere of learning, hence should seek to appoint sub-committees into matters such as students sanitation, security and sponsorship amongst others.
The NTSRU should be committed to applying competence with all humility, integrity and accountability to fervently seek, promote and maximize students’ welfare. It ought to ignite SRC’s to participate in Government decisions related to students and boost enthusiasm in all students’ endeavors.
With the recent mayhem surrounding the Education ministry, one would see that indeed not everything is well in tertiary schools.
As a nation we cannot tolerate oppression of students in institutions and yet preach Education as a foundation of national development. We will not be able to secure the future of our young brothers and sisters if we allow profit oriented institutions to pocket Batswana tax money and provide irrelevant studies to students. Student leaders should meet not to fight each other, institution managements, or the ministry . They should meet and unite to fight the impoverishment of our people, unemployment of graduates and underdevelopment. Student representative councils should meet to fight for the dignity of the students and ensure that student welfare in all institutions is of suitable standards.
A happy student is a progressive student, and the national students’ representative union is the way forward.
Former BACSRC minister