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Gov’t reforms the tertiary education funding

Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research Science and Technology is reforming its tertiary education funding, with new draft policy placing emphasis on funding students who pursue technical and vocational training.

Minister of Tertiary Education, Research and Technology Dr Alfred Madigele has this week, in an exclusive interview revealed that the current funding model, the Grant Loan Scheme which was introduced in 1995 is going under review. “The 1995 Grant Loan Scheme was mainly catering for government jobs. It was responding to white-collar jobs only. It was looking at teaching carers and social sciences programmes, which are essentially white-collar jobs,” said Dr Madigele.

“Those sectors which were catered for are now saturated such that there are fewer and fewer vacancies in those sectors. Essentially, we need to re-invent the Grant Loach Scheme for tertiary education financing to respond [to today’s needs].” Dr Madigele, who is also legislator for Molapowabojang-Mmathethe constituency said currently the government is reviewing the tertiary education financing policy to respond to the challenges the country faces now.

“There are a lot of educated people with Diplomas, Degrees, Masters or even PhDs but they do not have jobs. It does not necessarily mean there are no jobs in Botswana. It means those particular sectors are saturated,” observed Dr Madigele. He said, sectors such as tourism, mining, construction present a wide range of opportunities for other careers but the sectors are dominated by foreign nationals. Dr Madigele is of the view that the country has not done enough to produce enough artisans, hence the jobs are taken by people from outside.

“If you walk around town, or go to CBD [Central Business District] you would find that most of construction employees, plumbers and others are done by our neighbours from Zimbabwe, Chinese and other foreign nationals. These are jobs which actually should be going to Batswana,” he stated.

The former Assistant Minister of Health noted that in the review that his ministry is undertaking, they are taking into consideration these careers which are in demand, by offering variety of options for pursuing them, including up-skilling citizens as well are re-tolling them to be able to deliver the desired results. “Within the draft policy, we want to put more emphasis on the TVET (Technical and Vocational Education Training) sector which we believe it will help us to reduce unemployment,” he said.

A report released by Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) in 2016 titled “Tertiary Education at a Glance” indicated that enrolment by government technical colleges is very low and is not rising in any significant way.  “This means that Technician level training in Botswana has a very low share of tertiary enrolments. Given that a growing economy needs all kinds of technicians in the critical skill areas like Electrical/Electronics, Construction/Building, computer engineering, Instrumentation and mechanical engineering this trend is worrying,” reads the report.

“The technical colleges seem to have good infrastructure that is comparable to others. So this trend shows us anecdotally that there may well be low utilisation of existing resources in the technical Colleges.” The report further indicates that data from government technical colleges shows an inconsistent and erratic trend over the years with some courses done one year and then seemingly abandoned the next enrolment.

“It would appear that technician level training across the colleges could benefit from a better coordination and policy guidance given that the demand for training places is very high nevertheless.” In a recent interview with WeekendPost, Minister of Basic Education Dr Unity Dow contended that part of the problem regarding technical colleges’ enrolment was the perception formed on them. She is said there is a need to brand them so that they become attractive.

FUTURE OF TERTIARY EDUCATION FUNDING

In 2016, Madigele told the Tertiary Education Pitso organised by the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) that Botswana, like many other countries faced the challenge of tertiary education financing occasioned in part by what he called “massification”: a massive increase in tertiary education enrolment; ever increasing costs; equally important competing priorities and dwindling financial resources.

The minister indicated that although government had in recent years talked about cost sharing at tertiary education, it is not a decision his ministry has taken yet. Madigele said currently the government avails sponsorship to 10 000 students on average out of a possible 25 000 who graduate from Botswana General Certificate for Secondary Education (BGCSE). He said, because government wants to increase access to tertiary education, it means other measures have to be put in place to make it sustainable.

“This format of sponsorship alone cannot be able to sponsor all the students. One option is income contingent loans, which means students will start paying the loans once they start working after graduation,” he said. “This will be a form of cost-sharing because the students will be able to pay back the money once they start working.” The government is also considering doing away with the grant loan scheme, which means they should be other options for financing other programmes which are not necessarily part of the one considered to be seriously in demand.

“You will find out that sometimes a student has passion for music or dancing, and they have not scored good marks but want to pursue their passion. We are thinking of introducing government guaranteed loans in partnership with private banks to be able to provide these kinds of loans to these individuals, which is allowing people to diversify what they want to do,” he said.

Dr Madigele hinted on engaging other stakeholders, including Ministry of Finance about the possibility of using Government Employee Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Guaranteed Scheme (GEMVAS) to also include education financing as part of the scheme.
Government has admitted to failing to recover sponsorship loans from employees who benefited from the government grant loan scheme. It is estimated that government is owed billions of pula in unrecovered loans. Due to failure by government to put mechanism in place, Dr Madigele said, government is currently recovering about P20 million annually.    

“We need to put in place legislative framework that will facilitate Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF) to be able to recover loans. As of now the system is not in place; DTEF does not have the necessary legal instruments, for instance, there is no law that forces employers to declare employees who were government sponsored and how much they earn,” he said. “We also need to create a one-stop centre like Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) to be able to collect data and be able to track those who are working and paying taxes.”

He said it is not easy to change the government machinery as it takes a long time because changing one law may result in other laws being changed as well. Following the creation of HRDC, the mandate of tertiary education funding was transferred from DTEF to the HRDC, which was known previously as Tertiary Education Council (TEC).

Madigele has also dismissed any possibility of free education in Botswana at tertiary level as well as possibility of allowance increment due to government’s desire to increase access to tertiary education. He also noted that the economy is not performing well, which makes it difficult for government to consider allowance increment for tertiary students.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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