The Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) founding CEO, Abel Modungwa leaves the organisation a happy man after maintaining his integrity and frustrating spurious cash chasing entrepreneurs who see the tertiary education sector as a quick buck avenue.
Having transformed the higher education set-up in Botswana despite what he calls “efforts to frustrate me” by some high ranking officials and those with political connections, Modungwa says his successor will roll on clean wheels. In an interview this week, Modungwa did not bar any holds, and in a tell-all way spewed venom, calling out those who had tried to oust him through unorthodox means. The malign of Modungwa’s reputation was attracted, he said, by his role of being a regulator in the tertiary education sector.
Here is why Modungwa believes he was a targeted man: Botswana’s tertiary education sector has seen unprecedented boom in the last 10 years. During the 2014/15 financial year, of the 60 583 student enrolled in tertiary institutions, 95 per cent were reported to be government sponsored. This has consequently resulted in tuition fees and allowances spent by government on sponsored students averaging P2 billion in the last seven years. Private tertiary institutions which are springing up now and then compete for these government sponsored students. They conjure programmes frequently so that they attract more students, and Modungwa’s BQA has to accredit the programmes.
It is now common knowledge that the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology has also drastically reduced the number of students sent to study abroad. During the 2007/08 financial year 2706 students were sent to study abroad compared to only 204 during the 2014/15 financial year.
The fact that Botswana is the highest spender on education in proportion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the region but remain inferior to countries like South Africa, Namibia and Mauritius in terms of access to tertiary education, is also an attraction to tertiary education entrepreneurs. Modungwa categorically states that whoever is at the helm of a regulatory body like the BQA will face all sorts of challenges. But he had not projected that his name will be marinated with false corruption allegations by tertiary education entrepreneurs who are frustrated by the system of accreditation.
Modungwa, who vacated the BQA top office on the 10th of this month after his two year contract elapsed, said for over 17 years as the leader of the parastatal some individuals’ orchestrated plans to oust him through unconventional means. The outgoing CEO confirms that he has survived a number of trumped up tips to the DCEC.
The ever composed Bobonong born leader also said that the numerous investigations by the Directorate on Corruption Crime and Economic (DCEC) could not unearth any corruption because he was an innocent man. He said the DCEC has not found any link or evidence associating him with corrupt dealings. “That post is tough you need to be vigilant and avoid taking anything that comes your way especially from your customers. I have been investigated by DCEC on numerous occasions but I prevailed because there was nothing to suggest any corruption on my part,” he told this newspaper.
He said the investigations were as a result of allegations levelled against him by institutions and or individuals. “Being a regulator is not an ordinary task if you accredit this one and not the other they report you to DCEC that you could be in some underhand dealings. But I have always reasoned with the law and prevailed.”
But Modungwa has a word or two directed at government. He said he had established a cordial relationship with his former employer, although there were always differing points on some matters. “We had a cordial relationship, but here and there we disagreed but we always found common ground,” he said.
However, the outgoing BQA Chief Executive borrowed from the veteran politician, Daniel Kwelagobe’s script by declaring that those in leadership must go back to the drawing board. Modungwa who will now be a full-time pastor reckons the government should introspect and go back crossroads to realign certain things. He shared that there was need for introspection and crossover, cementing his views with biblical references, especially the book of Mark 4: 35 (“let us cross over to the other side”).
“This verse urges us to cross over to the other side where there is no corruption, injustice, and excessive self-interest. I am concerned about the seeping culture of injustice, unfairness, corruption, and lack of integrity that is taking root in our country.” Although he pleaded not to cite any examples, he says he was worried by the direction this country had taken, especially the growing trend of poor governance.
Before the formation of BQA, that during the days of the Botswana Training Authority (BOTA), Modungwa told this newspaper that it was common practice for private and public institutions to offer practical subjects, yet they had no proper laboratories and equipment for students to carry out such practical training. He said this situation led to graduates who were not job-ready – we had to fix this, he said.
“There were many fly-by-night institutions. It was common for students to pay fees, and never know what happened to the institution that had promised to be the gateway to their success.” This, he said, forced the authority to develop a database of registered and accredited institutions.
According to Modungwa, who served public institutions for 35 years, employers were not happy because they would employ these seemingly well-trained graduates who, it turned out, could not do the work – and had to be taught practically everything on the job, and yet they had received formal training. “BQA therefore had to ensure compliance to the accreditation requirements and emphasized practical’s for practical courses,” he asserted.
Under the leadership of Modungwa, BQA has sailed through turbulent waters but achieved its mandate. The Authority has a big task – and in that journey the Modungwa led institution has closed down up to 30 non-compliant tertiary education providers. BQA, as a regulatory body was established to improve the quality of teaching and learning through the establishment of the overarching National Credit and Qualifications Framework (NCQF) and a common quality assurance platform for all qualifications.
This called on the leadership to coordinate the development of a seamless Education and Training System that was robust and meets the needs of learners and of both local and international markets. Modungwa’s visionary leadership has seen him being the current Secretariat and member of the Interim Board of Southern African Quality Assurance Network (SAQAN). Modungwa leaves BQA when it has almost filly transitioned to a new phase of its mandate. During the recent countrywide tours, BQA took the opportunity to introduce Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), a new programme the Authority will roll out next year.
The tour was aimed at educating the public about the transitional arrangements that BQA is undergoing. BQA embarked on its second country tour, starting 6th November 2017 to 18th November 2017, following the first one in August. According to Modungwa, RPL is a process by which learning and experience of a candidate, irrespective of how it was obtained, is compared with the learning outcomes or units standards required for a specific qualification.
He said this is critical in an outcome-based education system where a learner accumulates credits through formal, informal and non-formal learning. As a parting shot, Modungwa advised the general public was advised to verify that the education training providers they enrol with are registered by BQA and that their programmes are accredited.
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.
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.
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.”