The cry has been heard. The sounds of students in pain, anguish and sustained uncertainty has reached the corridors of power. The Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) has revealed during a press briefing this past week that those who seek to make profits by hoaxing tertiary students will face the music.
This comes after several institutions were discovered to be providing courses and programmes that have not been accredited by the body responsible for such, being BQA. The Department of Tertiary Education and Financing has not been spared the rod as it was accused to have in certain instances colluded with some tertiary institutions. This scenario saw some tertiary students, such as those at Botho University College demonstrating in riots that ended up in brutal and sometimes bloody encounters with the Botswana Police Service.
BQA has responded by developing a ‘Learner Protection Policy’ which is an instrument designed purely to protect the current learner in the vent that the course and or programme that he and or she has been enrolled in “for whatever reason is discontinued”. The Chief Executive Officer of BQA, Mr. Abel Modungwa further revealed that the ‘Learner Protection Policy’ will also protect a potential student who has not yet registered with an accredited institution. Modungwa stated that “such a potential student will be protected in the event that the programme he and or she enrolls for is discontinued for whatever reason”.
This will either be a refund or being enrolled for a course similar to the one previously enrolled for. Under the past scenario, students were at the mercy of institutions as they were expected to sign conditions of study and training and there was nowhere in those documents were the students were protected against abuse, hoax behaviours and whatever form of fraud from institutions. some institutions had to discontinue their courses after it was revealed that such courses were being taught by ‘fake’ lectures.
Business Botswana has also entered the fray to ensure that the business community, particularly in the education sector, are compliant with the BQA regulations as the new law demands. Mr. Setume of Business Botswana confirmed this development. He noted that, they have as Business Botswana together with other appropriate and relevant stakeholders joined the BQA in a nation wide tour that began this past week at planet lodge in block 3 where the main and primary objective is to encourage education institutions to apply for accreditation and comply with the set standards. The deadline for this applications under the new regulations is end of this year.
Mr. Setume in positing the importance of Business Botswana in this BQA national tour emphasised that “we are as Business Botswana are quite clear of the implications on the new law and hence our inspiration to go out there and engage our members in the education business to apply and comply, otherwise they will no longer be in business.” He continued that though they occasionally consult with their counter parts in the public education system, Business Botswana operates as the voice of reason of the private sector, and they are thus a part of this BQA national tour primarily in the interest of private institutions in the education sector.
To engage the students and ensure that the popular saying of ‘nothing for us without us’ is a reality, the student representatives will through their Student Representatives Councils be the ‘ears and the eyes’ of the student community. This is to ensure that the students get value for money and that the courses are taught as advertised and packaged.
The CEO of BQA noted that this development of ensuring that the battle to restore, grow and sustain growth of quality education needs participation of all stakeholders and further emphasised that “we cannot win this battle alone, BQA cannot be everywhere at the same time, it is upon all of us to do that.” This notion was also noted by the Business Botswana official as he posited that “we can assure Batswana that they will have value for money from their investments in school fees”. Setume further added that the private sector is not foreign to quality assurance and that quality is not a linear process but rather a continuous improvement process that calls for more interventions amongst relevant stakeholders.
One of the developments is that after the 01st of January 2017, BQA will issue through the media and other public forums a list of all accredited institutions and programmes so that students applying to any tertiary institution and for any programme, is able to know immediately if such a programme and course as desired is accredited and not just a hoax as has been reported in the past with some courses not accredited and in other instances programmes being taught by ‘fake’ lectures.
PART IV on the Registration of Existing Tertiary Institutions state that ‘the council shall prepare and publish by notice in the Government Gazette a register of all tertiary institutions to which section 21 applies and in respect of which details have been received, and shall in that publication, indicate in respect of each such tertiary institution whether all particulars set out in the application under section 21 have been supplied”.
The new regulations are a result of the changes to the effect that as the new act prescribes; the Authority known as the Botswana Training Authority (BOTA) established under section 3 of the repealed Act, is hereby continued under the new name of the Botswana Qualifications Authority, and shall continue to exist as if established under this Act. The new regulations amongst others do not give institutions an option to apply as it is now an obligation. Under the old laws institutions had the option of ‘may’ apply, as opposed to the new regulations which stipulates that institutions ‘shall’ apply for accreditation, and this application shall go through rigorous checks and consideration. BQA is responsible for all qualifications from early childhood to tertiary level.
Botswana Accountancy College (BAC) last week held its 2022 graduation where 727 students graduated after spending the last two years of their academic studies navigating through the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is said that during the pandemic, BAC provided students with laptops, tablets and data sim cards to facilitate virtual learning and blended learning. The Acting Minister of Education and Skills Development at the ceremony, Wilhemina Makwnja noted that the students managed to create connections and build bridges to reach their ultimate goals, therefore their graduation is not only testimony of their strength and resilience, but it also demonstrates their commitment to excel by facing the challenges they encountered head on to break through the barriers and focused on their success.
âI trust that the graduates will build onto these qualities and competencies as they venture into the industry to impart their skills in the various sectors of the economy,â said Makwinja. She also shared that she strongly believes that the graduates will become agents of change and that they will take advantage of the spectrum of opportunities available in the market both locally and internationally.
Living in an era of digital economies, e-commerce, fin-tech and many other new eco-systems that have been created as the world continues to evolve, it is said to be inevitable that we all need to be steadfast and adapt to the rapid changes experienced before the pandemic. âAs part of the transformation agenda, the Ministry of Entrepreneurship has been established with a mandate to drive development of sustainable industries and trade, and this can be achieved through âaccelerated transformative investments in Botswanaâ,â said Makwinja.
She further noted it is through the Ministry that youth entrepreneurship projects will be supported including administration of the Youth Development Fund that facilitates funding commercialization of various youth projects. âThere are other Government incentives in Agriculture which are aimed at supporting Batswana farmers with commercialization of their produce to supply both the local market and exporting to other markets,â added Makwinja.
The BAC Executive Director, Serty Leburu on the other hand enunciated that it was important to recognise that the past years they have gone through a lot of changes and mostly life defining moments as the school lost some valuable staff members and students during the Covid-19 pandemic. âThe environment within which we operate has been changing rapidly and as an institution we have to constantly come up with some interventions and pivot ourselves in order to rise to the test and adapt,â said Leburu.
Leburu also renowned that they were also launching the BAC 2022-2027 Institutional Strategy focusing on key areas for Teaching and Learning, Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Transition to University Status and Internationalization, Asset Mobilisation and Optimization as well as Student and Staff experience. âIt is our ambition to continue to expand into other markets to provide access to our programs through partnerships and collaborations with both local and international private and public entities,â added Leburu
In addition to this, she reflected that research, innovation, and consultancy are some of the areas they are making strides to develop and grow in partnership with various stakeholders. Through the schools there are projects that are being worked on at various levels. âAs BAC we continue to work with the industry and our partners, we assess the market to identify training and development needs to capacitate employees to meet the demands of the new and evolving economies,â concluded Leburu.
African Scientists and Experts Call for the adoption of a Harm Reduction in approach in Public Health Strategies and Tobacco Control. Media have a critical role to play in accelerating Harm Reduction efforts by informing and sensitizing cigarette smokers on the availability and benefits of alternative, potentially lower risk products to cigarretes. Traditional cessation and smoking prevention norms are not the only ways that smokers who cannot or donâtâ want to quit can make healthier choices that cause less harm to themselves and those around them.
This was said during the 2nd Harm Reduction Exchange conference for African journalists held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 1st of December 2022. Speaking at the Harm Reduction Exchange Conference, Integra Africa Principal Dr. Tendai Mhizha emphasized the role that journalists and media houses should play in handling misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discourse that is actually perpetuating the death and disease caused by people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. âThere has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on public health.
This has led to policies that disfavour risk reduces products and narratives that completely deny their benefits. The media have the difficult responsibility to curb the scourge of disinformation and misinformation on harm reduction just like on other socio-political stances that are prescriptive and do not uphold consumersâ right to healthier lifestyle choices,â Dr Mhizha said.
The Harm Reduction Exchange cast a spotlight on alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco smokers. Held under the theme Harm Reduction: Making a difference in Africa, the conference focused on the progress being made through harm reduction strategies in all fields related to public health such as drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sugar consumption, skin lightening and other addictive and behavioral practices. A wide array of harm reduction strategies and initiatives that are deployed towards reducing unnecessary deaths through non-communicable diseases were presented and discussed.
It applies to areas where there is a need to reduce the harm associated with a practice or consumption of a substance that is overused in society leading to increased morbidity and mortality. âInnovative Harm Reduction initiatives will help to keep more Africans alive. Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives, including the use of popular e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums, have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and in the media. However, there is evidence that the use of potentially less harmful alternatives than cigarettes for those who are not willing or cannot give up smoking with currently approved methods may be a solution, not necessarily the best for everyone but by far better than continuous smoking.
Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smokingâthe most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. âNicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can be also achieved by tobacco harm reduction,â Dr. Kgosi Letlape, an ophthalmologist and President of Africa Medical Association and the president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, said.
Tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. This task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking. Thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative. Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.
âThe Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants,â Bernice Apondi, A Policy Manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said.
During the Harm Reduction Exchange, journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries, including: Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction,and science-led regulation.
The Harm Reduction Exchange brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Ms Bernice Opondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivian Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.
Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.
According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reachingÂ WeekendPostÂ shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.
In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.
The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.
This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publicationâs queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, âas you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,â she said.
She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.
Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.
Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.
Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.
âIt is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,â he toldÂ WeekendPost, adding that âwhen a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolvedâ.
Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.