Boitekanelo College represents the aspirations of economic diversification, citizen empowerment, quality education, employment creation, and human resource development – all in one basket!
This is one project Botswana should pride herself with in bridging the education gap as well as domesticating healthcare training.
In life most people have dreams of achieving epic things in their lifetimes but the dreams remain just that: dreams. However a very small segment of people will usually cross the Rubicon and do all that is necessary to achieve what they believe is their life purpose, changing lives in the process.
Way back in the early 2000s when there was an acute shortage of healthcare workers and the cruel hand of the HIV/AIDS was showing its hand, young medical doctors, Tiro Mampane and Gagoitsewe Saleshando set out to help Government plug the gap that existed by creating a new pool of healthcare workers that would serve all industries.
In a an exclusive interview this week, Dr Mampane, who worked at Princess Marina Hospital two years before going into private practice, decided to venture into healthcare business after ‘getting bored’ with the medical aspect of his work and in turn, went into the business side of it.
Mampane said that having been trained outside Botswana’s borders, together with Dr Saleshando, they were exposed to healthcare environments that were defined, with different role players doing work within the sector that they were trained for, unlike in Botswana where nurses are burdened with nearly all duties that are to be performed in a healthcare environment.
“All the programmes that we introduce are industry driven, we go out to the industry, including the mines because we do not want our students to be unemployed; we do a lot of stakeholder engagement. Our advantage is that it is a well fact that worldwide, ratio of health care providers to people needing the services is not enough and that is the need that we are addressing, unlike maybe other programmes offered at other institutions, which are possibly flooded with graduates.”
Mampane said: So far, we have close to 40 of our graduates at Gaborone Private Hospital and also about 40 at Bokamoso Private Hospital and private practices also use our graduates.”
“We are even training for Zambia and we will be receiving more students soon. The need for healthcare services is pronounced all over, even in the first world countries. In our industry confidentiality is very important,” said Mampane highlighting the need for properly trained administrators, and auxiliary services providers in a healthcare system, to know the right etiquette, professionalism and confidentiality, adding that healthcare sometimes starts right from the time a patient makes a call to the care giver, in an emergency situation.
“When we started our business, we didn’t even have trained paramedics in this country and emergency care operators were hiring just anybody,” said Mampane.
“Just to share with other entrepreneurs, you must know that even if you have this big dream, don’t say that you will start with that big dream otherwise you will never start; you have to start small knowing where you want to be one day.”
According to Mampane, winners are those who start, otherwise you will always plan. “So we started with one programme and very few employees but I can tell you that right now we employ over 200 people, we have two campuses and we are offering courses for certificates, diplomas and degrees,” said Mampane, emphatically.
Mampane said that indeed, the perception in Botswana towards Batswana who come up with solutions for problems that exist in the country and present them to Government, is very different from when you arrive in the country as a foreigner, particularly if you are white.
“We had a hard time getting accreditation from the then BOTA: they saw us as these young boys and they could not really understand what we are trying to do and it was that time that the perception was that young people get financial assistance and immediately buy expensive cars. However, it is important to mention that right now they are very supportive.”
The most important factors for doing business, according to Mampane, besides dedication and commitment, are stakeholder engagement.
Boitekanelo College is a mammoth achievement by any terms. All the linkages for success were present, including: a real need for healthcare workers and administrators, both in Botswana, the region and Africa as a whole; the promoters of the vision, Drs Mampane and Saleshando, were willing to draw expertise from other professions and give rewards that were commensurate with the input; Government as a facilitator, finally listened to the concept and gave all the support.
Dr Tiro Mampane told WeekendPost that it was very difficult to get the attention of authorities, such as the Ministry of Health as well as the authoriser of trainers, the then Botswana Training Authority, now Botswana Qualifications Authority. “If you want to go fast travel alone; but if you want to travel far, go with others,” said Mampane, quoting a famous philosopher.
Mampane said that they did not have finance as is common with nearly all start ups but they got help from angel investors, particularly one Wendy Mookodi, who he still holds in high regard. He said that they were not afraid to recruit from established institutions, professionals who would bring their expertise to make the venture a success.
After eight years of being in existence, a P40 million pula campus facility in Tlokweng, two annual global healthcare conferences, a near complete school of nursing and over 2000 graduates later, the next frontier for the College to acquire University status, something that Dr Mampane says was College is well placed to do that after three years: “In terms of the number of faculties and students, we qualify to be a university; as for the number of years in existence, we will be in a position to be a university in three years time. In fact we have that strategy in place to become a university at that time,” said Dr Mampane.
Mampane also said that as an institution, they have acquired a 12 hectare piece of land in Mogoditshane and are awaiting necessary approvals to build a campus with a training hospital, student accommodation and other facilities, by the year 2020.
As a parting shot, Mampane expressed his thankfulness for having been given the opportunity by Government to carry the mantle in healthcare education hence the reason to employ a majority of Batswana, which stands at 98 percent at Boitekanelo College.
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.”