Despite growing non-compliance incidents in learning institutions, Botswana Qualification Authority (BQA) is doing its best to ensure that tertiary institutions in both the public and private sector comply with set regulations, BQA Acting Chief Executive Officer Ezekiel Thekiso, revealed this week.
This week, Thekiso told Weekend Post that there is an impression that BQA is not accrediting qualified personnel to teach in tertiary institutions, a development which he said is mainly caused by lack of understanding of the process of accreditation undertaken by BQA.
In the wake of recurring incidences of fake qualifications held by various lecturers in tertiary institutions, the latest being at Botho University, where at least two lecturers were exposed and fired for possessing bogus Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) qualifications, BQA has conceded to having had previously accredited the two fired lectures, who are foreign nationals but insist the two lecturers were not accredited to teach to the level of Master’s Degree.
“Our procedure is that, whenever an accredited institution wants to introduce a new programme, they have to apply for accreditation of the programme, and have to satisfy the requirements, such having qualified personnel to do so,” said Thekiso .
“Botho College, which has now attained university status had expressed its desire to introduce a new Master Degree programme, and upon submission of their personnel who will teach the programme, it came to our attention that their qualifications were suspicious, leading to rejection for accreditation.”
Thekiso further informed this publication that BQA then alerted the university on their suspicion leading to the university taking a decision to expel the duo.
He also contended that BQA has a clear policy and rules which affirm teaching personnel should always have higher qualification, than those they are teaching. In his words, “a student pursuing Diploma can only be taught by a lecturer with a Bachelor’s Degree or better. Same applies on other levels.”
According to Thekiso, lecturers are accredited on specific request, and the accreditation is only limited to the area for which the applicant applied for hence, if the applicant want to teach a new programme, he/she should make a new request to be accredited for it.
However, there have been reports of many tertiary institutions, especially in the private sector violating this provision. Thekiso has affirmed that BQA is doing its best, to uproot those with such qualifications.
Under the old Tertiary Education Council (TEC) system, the BQA had scheduled and unscheduled check up in order to monitor if the institutions are complying or not. Since the transformation, both public and private institutions are subject to accreditation, unlike in the previous system where the public schools were exempted.
Thekiso also expressed optimism that the new legal frame work, which will come into effect soon, will have severe penalties for non-compliance to both institutions and individuals. This process, according to Thekiso, will act as deterrence of incidents of non-compliance.
He concurred that the current legal frame work maybe too lenient on the offenders hence the introduction of new frame work.
“The new system has also raised fees required to establish a new institution, so that we only attract serious individuals,” he said.
The BQA boss also noted that, the authority also has a clear policy that, for foreign nationals, they only recognise qualifications, which are also recognised by the country of origin. Recently, BQA moved swiftly to revoke accreditation of Institute of Commercial Management (ICM) programmes after the United Kingdom stopped recognising the programmes for non-compliance.
BQA which came into being following the transformation of the TEC and Botswana Training Authority (BOTA), is still using the provisions of the now defunct institutions for accreditation of both certificate, diploma and degree qualifications in institutions.
The authority has since suspended the old TEC and BOTA system for accreditation of institutions, until the new frame work is adopted.
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 donâ€™tâ€™ 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. â€śThere 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€ť 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. â€śInnovative 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 smokingâ€”the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. â€śNicotine 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€ť 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.
â€śThe 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€ť 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 publicationâ€™s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, â€śas 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€ť 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.
â€śIt is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,â€ť he toldÂ WeekendPost, adding that â€śwhen a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolvedâ€ť.
Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.