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.
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.