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Why Botswana varsities are ranked low

In a major disappointment for Botswana’s education system, no Botswana institution of higher learning has made it to the top 100 in the Times Higher Education World Reputation rankings and that too for the fifth continuous year.

Botswana has five universities namely University of Botswana (UB), Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Botswana University of Agriculture and National Resources (BUAN) formerly Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA), Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) and Botho University (BU). In addition the country has several university colleges and technical colleges.

According to the rankings published by the British magazine this week, universities from United States continue to dominate with Harvard at the top spot. The US is leading with 43 institutions followed by United Kingdom with ten.

Why poor performance by local institutions?

Dr. Sethunya Mosime of UB told this publication in an interview that local tertiary institutions will continue to perform poorly in international rankings as they enroll a small number of post graduates who could be leading in research.

“I speculate that this could be linked to funding constraints in Botswana which hampers universities in their drive to improve especially in research; and also government’s lack of commitment to excellence in higher education,” she said.

Mosime added that at UB, the research grant is insufficient hence the research output is generally unsatisfactory.

According to the university website, as of 2014, there were 1 227 publications of which only three per cent were books, 12 per cent were chapters in books, 14 per cent were refereed conference proceedings, 52 per cent were refereed journal articles and the rest from other publications.

Mosime recommended that the government increase subvention fund to UB so that funds can be availed to carry on research. Government’s subvention to UB is P703 million which translate to 46 per cent of the institution’s revenue.

She observed that failure to attract international students and leading researchers remains a challenge to local universities. UB has an enrolment of 18 176 students of which 96% are Batswana.

Another academic at the institution, Dr. Kaelo Molefhe stated that academic freedom in the country is under siege hence most professors, especially expatriates exercise caution on what they publish.

“Professors are not at liberty to publish their work as they fear deportation, censorship and repression from government and university management,” he explained.

He added that unfriendly immigration laws, especially Visa requirement and work permits continue to make it difficult for the university to realize its vision of being a leading academic centre of excellence in Africa and the world.

In the past, Caesar Zvayi who lectured in the Department of Media Studies at UB was deported for political reasons. Zvayi who is now the Editor of Zimbabwe’s leading daily newspaper – The Herald was deported after being added to the European Union sanctions and publicly declaring his unwavering support for President Robert Mugabe.

Australia’s Professor Kenneth Good was also shown the door during the presidency of Festus Mogae. Prof. Good was said to be a threat to national security after he described Botswana diamonds –the country’s key exports as ‘blood diamonds.

Another academic who did not wish to be quoted told this publication that only when institutions do more research then they will attract better students and scholars and that on its own will boost their reputation.

Furthermore, he opined that the parameters that measure global reputation were not helping local universities as they stressed much on global diversity and research intensity.

He said it was going to take decades for local institutions to transform from teaching universities to research intensive institutions. He also observed that most programs offered by local universities were not accredited by international accrediting bodies such as ABET.

He reiterated that local universities must consider forging international partnerships with leading universities like Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge for benchmarking purposes.

At the time of going to print, BIUST and UB spokespersons, Keoagile Rafifing and Mhitshane Reetsang had not responded to a questionnaire from this publication on how their institutions intend to improve their international rankings and the root cause of unsatisfactory performance.
Methodology

According to the British magazine website, the rankings were based on surveys of more than 10 000 senior academics in 133 countries. The survey targeted only experienced and published scholars who offered their views on excellence in research and teaching within their disciplines.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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