The newly elected University of Botswana Student Representative Council (SRC) members have been told to stay away from party politics but instead serve the interests of students.
The call was made by UB Deputy Vice Chancellor Student Affairs, Professor Martin Mokgwathi during the SRC inauguration this week. Mokgwathi indicated that partisan involvement and activism leads to the SRC members serving the interests and agendas of political parties and not those of the students. “The SRC is not the backbench of political parties, you should not be politically aligned in any way, you serve the students community’s interests and not politicians,” said Mokgwathi.
The University of Botswana Council took a decision in 2015 to ban partisan politics, allegedly responding to the unbecoming conduct of previous SRC’s who were said to be driven by political interference rather advocating for students’ interests. The decision was followed by the call for establishment of students’ movements rather politically affiliated bodies to run for SRC elections.
During his address this week, Professor Mokgwathi encouraged the student leaders not to push political parties’ interests at the expense of the students. In recent years the UB has experienced souring relations between students and the management. The escalation of differences between the SRC and the UB management had led to politically charged demonstrations and internal conflicts within the SRC.
“The SRC is a statutory body in UB because the University values students as an important stakeholder. Therefore you are expected to represent the student community to the best of your ability, and students have an expectation from their leadership,” the Professor said. The Deputy Vice Chancellor further stated that the SRC should be voted in every March of the year. He explained that this year the elections were delayed due to some issues within the student body.
The university has been without an SRC for six months. The term of the former SRC elapsed in March this year only for the new SRC to be elected on the 15th of September. Mokgwathi outlined the roles of the SRC as prescribed in the constitution observing that the SRC is the link between the students and the University management. He said the student representation should be done by adhering to the constitution, stressing that the student finances should be managed properly through professional’s advice.
Mokgwathi promised the student community the full support of management. Meanwhile, the recent past SRC president, Mr Bakotelo Mmipi encouraged the newly sworn in SRC members to put aside their interests and serve the students diligently. Mmipi said some elected persons tend to push their personal interests using the SRC office. He said some go to an extent of trying to enrich themselves with the students’ finances.
“The SRC is about serving the interests of all the students in the University without favor or prejudice, and it’s not about attaining wealth as it is normally the case with some people,” figured Mmipi. He also stressed that the SRC should avoid political interference and to put aside their political differences for better service delivery. “Sacrifice your political affiliations so that you can work together and put the interests of the students at the forefront. The students are the ones who voted you; and they should also hold you accountable,’’ he said.
The outgoing president pleaded with the management to work cordially with the SRC in order to avoid past disputes such as strikes which were mainly due to lack of support and cooperation from the management. For his part, the newly elected President Mr Oteng Vicer Eleck, told this publication on the sidelines of the inauguration that they are looking forward to working with each other despite their political differences.
“As leaders we are looking forward to a united and vibrant SRC, inclusive of all students.”
The BDP linked GS 26 won 7 seats out of the 13 council seats, with the UDC linked Moono wa Baithuti scooping 6 seats. The GS 26 managed to retain the presidency seat won by Oteng Eleck, who now succeeds Bakotelo Mmipi. On the other hand Moono wa Baithuti retained the vice presidency won by Refilwe Gaelesiwe the only female in the council, succeeding Dikosha Dikosha.
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.”