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Thursday, 18 April 2024

HRDC standards could force tertiary institutions to invest in infrastructure

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The Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) has launched the Student Affairs Services Norms and Standards, aimed at encouraging tertiary institutions to focus on the welfare of the learners by proving quality non-academic services.

The Student Affairs Services Norms and Standards build on a number of institutional planning instruments and frameworks covering issues of governance, enrolment, academics, finance, infrastructure and information management aimed at improving institutional efficiency and effectiveness.

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.

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.
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.

According to Assistant Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology Fidelis Molao, the current total enrolment stand at 56 447 students, a slight decline from the last three years or so. Molao who was officiating at the launch of Students Affairs Services Norms and Standards in Palapye this week said 62 percent of the current enrolment is in public institutions, while the remaining 38 percent is in private tertiary institutions.  

Despite this growth, The Global Competiveness Report, compiled by World Economic Forum has repeatedly stated that Botswana’s enrolment remains lower by international standards especially for an upper-middle income country. In the 2014/15 report Botswana was ranked 114 out of 144 countries in the world, while Finland has been consistently ranked higher than almost all competing economies.

While the government could have seen a boom in the local tertiary institutions, there has always been a debate surrounding the mushrooming of private institution with regard to their credibility and quality of education. There is general believe that private institutions, unlike public institution are dread for profit entities, concerned only with maximising their profits.

The Students Services Norms and Standards, according to Minister Molao has been brought on board upon the recognition that a lot needs to be done in tertiary institutions as far as non-academic services are concerned in Botswana’s tertiary education sector. “This sudden growth consequently resulted in a substantially expanding and sophisticated tertiary education system. This calls for a deliberate and comprehensive student development policies and programs,” said the Assistant Minister.

“For instance, the consistently increasing cost of living has created a precarious situation for students as far as their residences and well being are concerned. The reality of the matter is that, few if any, of the private institutions offer on-campus resident.” Molao said the unavailability of on-campus accommodation for students in private institutions has forced them to look for accommodation in not so ideal housing arrangements while some of them have to travel long distances on daily basis for their studies.

“We can no longer leave issues of student support, retention, success and employability to chance. As one of the precursors to the development of SAS Norms and Standards, a situational analysis of the tertiary institutions in Botswana was undertaken and it emerged that a lot still needs to be done,” he observed.

Subsequent to the study, the HRDC compiled the guidelines for institutions on how to put in place learner support strategies and programs. The Norms and Standards cover ten functions areas, namely; Academic Advising and Support, Personnel Counselling and Support, Health and Wellness, Residence Life, Sports and Recreation, Student Leadership and Governance, Welcoming and Orientation, Career Development Services, Special Needs Services and HIV/AIDS Services.  

In recent years, a number of tertiary institutions, including University of Botswana have been plugged in student riots on various issues, including academics affairs and most importantly students’ welfare. It is believed that the Student Affairs Services Norms and Standards could force institutions to bend in favour of students by ensuring provisions of certain services to students as required by the guidelines.

“To students leaders, familiarise yourself with these instruments and share them with your peers as articulated by the students charter developed by HRDC and endorsed by yourselves,” Molao said. The Students Affairs Services Norms and Standards takes into consideration a number of factors for implementation, among them; the size of institutions in terms of student numbers, as they vary from quite a small number (less than 500) to quite a large number (more than 8000);

general multi-discipline institutions covering wide array of knowledge areas to single discipline institutions covering sometimes only one or only a few specific and closely related knowledge areas and institutions in which residences and residence life features strongly in their institutional architecture to institutions  that do not provide residence for students or do so in very limited ways.

The Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) Vice Chancellor Professor Otlogetswe Totolo has welcomed the introduction of Norms and Standards for students. “These SAS Norms and Standards are meant to guide institutions in developing policies and programmes geared towards improving the overall students’ experience by providing the necessary  support, and enhancing student completion and through put rates as a contribution to the creation of a knowledge based economy,” he said.

Totolo, whose university hosted the launch said although BIUST and HRDC do not have a Memorandum of Understanding on Norms and Standards, they will implement them because they are a premier university that follows international best practice. “We accept norms and standards with open arms and are ready to apply them at our university. We believe in the observance of excellence and quality in what we do, how we take decision, and how we implement our mandate.”  The launch had also attracted leaders of other tertiary institutions in Botswana.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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