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Job losses as Govt chops private tertiary cake

Some welcome recommendations of the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) are said to be taking toll and threatening the survival of the local tertiary institutions, especially those that are privately owned.

In particular, HRDC has advised government through Department of Tertiary Education and Financing (DTEF) not to sponsor some courses which they deem not critical for the job market. It is understood that in so doing, they are also addressing the scorching issue of skills mismatch that has inundated the country’s employment marketplace.

Weekend Post has established that the development is severely upsetting the private tertiary institutions’ enrolment which heavily hinges on government sponsored students for continued existence.

HRDC’s main objectives are to provide for policy advice with regard to the National Human Resource Development Strategy, coordination and implementation of the strategy, planning and advising on Tertiary Education Financing and work place planning in Botswana.

Speaking in an interview this week, Botho University Marketing and Communications Manager, Tebogo Matebesi confirmed that the government is not adequately ancillary to private institutions.

“It is a reality that government sponsored student numbers have been low; not only in this year but also in the past few years. This has affected the entire higher education system, both public and private negatively. At Botho we have many programmes where we have had very small enrolments or no enrolment at all,” he pointed out.

As a result of reduced government funding, Botho University is said to be undertaking cost-cutting measures to scale up with the expurgated number of prospective students to the university.

It is understood that some staff members who are Degree holders are the latest casualties in the economising exercise as the university have turned their back on them. Notwithstanding that initially the Degrees were a pre-requisite to be employed by the university and indications suggest that now the tables have turned. 

Some staff members who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity insisted that many employees have been fired willy-nilly at the university. They pointed out that currently there are on ongoing talks including disciplinary meetings with the university with intention to lay off more staff members.

“It’s terrible, the BU management is saying they want to down size employees as they are not receiving sufficient support from government through sponsored students. So some employees are pushed out on account of forged papers, some are dumped on the basis that they are not in possession of Masters qualifications’ and even where some were left with for example 2 years as per their contracts, they are never compensated,” one disgruntled staff member who face the chop revealed.  

The matter is exacerbated, he said, by the ‘firing team’ which is composed of majority of university Human Resource (HR) employees which is intimidating. “Both the committee chair, deputy, HR Manager, and the Secretary are from the institution HR department.” Only two are said to be from the victim’s department and he lamented, “so you see, it’s the whole team against you.”

He also mentioned that the committee “disregards the rules of natural justice” and during the hearings you are not even entitled to a lawyer representative but only someone from internal.  

In contrast, the University Marketing and Communications Manager, Matebesi defended BU by inharmoniously stating that they value their staff and see them as the most important asset.

“We believe that our staff members must have growth opportunities and hence where possible new positions are advertised internally. We have remained steadfastly focused on staff wellbeing by ensuring that we remain a leading institution,” Matebesi contended.

He said to date they have spent close to 4 million Pula on staff development in which around 60 staff members have taken advantage of this policy and have upgraded their qualifications.

Matebesi also stressed out that: “as a university we naturally have to give importance to higher qualified staff and hence we have put in place a strong staff development policy whereby any staff member wishing to study further any programme relevant to the institution will be fully supported.”

In justifying the contentious move, Matebesi went to state that they have matured from a college to become a fully-fledged university and many of their programmes have over the years evolved away from shorter programmes such as Certificate and Diplomas to become Degree programmes. He explained further that: “hence some staff members have been found to have qualifications below the minimum requirements.”  

Although many employees are continually being chopped off in the reduction of the university expenditure, the Botho University spokesperson maintained that where possible they have tried their best to reassign staff to other administrative or support roles.

Other private institutions notably Limkokwing University have been also enforced to take similar belt-tightening measures as a result of shrunk government sponsored student intake and in the process dismissed some employees at the institution.

In addition, others also have been hit hard comprising Boitekanelo College which sacked even its Vice Chancellor and other staff employees earlier this year. Other private universities facing a similar predicament includes ABM University College, Gaborone Institute of Professional Studies (GIPS), Baisago University among others.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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