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.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.