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FCE CLOSURE: Setting the record straight

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has dismally and deliberately failed in its operations and among its worst performances are the following;

The closure (permanent closure, not transformation), of Francistown College of Education, without consultation of the Francistown College of Education staff.


As much as the government has the power to do whatever it deems right concerning government institutions and operations, the closure of FCE and other colleges of Education is the worst decision.  The stale and flawed research, which is supposed to have informed the whole process, needs to be taken to task, since such a drastic decision cannot be based on one research which was carried in 2006, which also excluded the people on the ground.

One is inclined to state that the research in question has loop holes since it did not cover the necessary population including Hon Buti Billy and others who were in Francistown City Council then, as well as college lecturers in Francistown College of Education. It is also surprising that a whole ministry can take such a decision without visiting the college and getting the ideas of the college community and yet the ministry preaches open door policy.


The research according to reports, has indicated that: There is mismatch in supply and demand of graduates: the unit costs of the colleges of Education were unacceptable and absorbing graduates from colleges of Education was a challenge…the employment outcomes had deteriorated markedly for graduates from the University of Botswana.


The findings of this study and the analysis thereof, has failed to indicate and justify their findings, which were later nullified by the same Tertiary Education Council Report on Transformation of Public Non-Autonomous Tertiary Education Institutions (2010). The 2006 research has proved to be frivolous and misleading. The following are adequate enough to show that the study alluded to is flawed;

There is still shortage of teachers both in secondary and primary schools. The ratio of teacher-student (as per the Kedikilwe Commission; 1994) is still unacceptable, which ends up causing compromised learning and performance in general.


There are still teachers in the rural areas who teach more than one grade.

There are still teachers who are trained for Secondary school teaching but now found teaching in Primary schools, the methodologies of which they were not trained in.


The issue of subject groupings in Secondary schools, which disadvantages students, since it forces them to take subjects they do not want and are useless to their career paths. This is also a concern and a contributory factor to low performance in BGCSE results, because students are not allowed to choose the subjects which are in line with their career interests.

In addition, the same subjects block them from pursuing their careers, by pulling them down and reducing their credits/points. And thus depriving them entrance into tertiary institutions. This then contributes to the mismatch and low performance, the cause of which is shortage of teachers in the country, to offer all subjects in all schools.


The advertisement seeking for temporary teachers for both primary and secondary schools also confirms that there is shortage of teachers.


There are some University graduates (trained in other fields) who are teaching in primary schools.


All these are happening due to lack of consultation, that has become a norm in the MOESD.


The most fascinating part is that the government is closing Colleges of Education and at the same time, allows private institutions to continue training teachers, this is a serious contradiction. It is also a way of compromising further, the already compromised quality of education in the country, because some of the private institutions, offer degrees on part time basis for a two year duration. One wonders if this is not a deliberate move to favour the private institutions which are owned by some influential people in the country. This needs to be investigated and dealt with accordingly.


Other countries are upgrading institutions to higher levels, so as to make them accessible to their citizenry and internationally, but Botswana decides to make them extinct. A lot of benchmarking and marketing of Colleges of Education has been done, with the intention of admitting international/foreign students for fresh training or upgrading, that has evaporated as private institutions have now been given the mandate.

Countries are now talking globalization, where graduates of any country can be employable anywhere in the world, but Botswana is still cocooning her graduates. Why not upgrade and export human resources to other countries, rather than destroy the future citizenry of this country, which is what the country is doing now.


Now to set the record straight, there was never consultation with Francistown College community, be it oral or written. The only thing that happened was visits from Training and Development officers, who went to FCE to coerce staff.  In reaction to this, the college community requested for documentation that will help them understand what is going on, but it was never availed up to now.


Some lecturers at FCE, also tried to engage the current Permanent Secretary, who visited the college briefly (about 15 minutes). He also failed to address the issue, but instead promised to send a document which will give a road map of what the intentions about the college are and that the ministry will also include some staff members in planning for what they call transformation, which they never did. The professional and patriotic lecturers went further to try and engage the Minister of Education, who also failed to give them a hearing until they lastly resorted to engaging the office of the president, which promised to revert to them in vain.


In short, there has never been any form of consultation whatsoever and up to now, FCE staff do not have the slightest idea of what is happening and are now disturbed about their jobs security, or are they going to suffer serious emotional distress like it happened to the then Lobatse College of Education staff when it was closed? Are they going to find themselves displaced and deployed in areas or places that are going to render them irrelevant?


The MOESD has always deliberately neglected colleges of Education. No single Minister of Education has ever visited FCE, even on pastoral basis. The welfare of the lecturers on issues like accommodation, has always been a concern. Most lecturers do not have accommodation, those who are accommodated are in dilapidated houses which have also been declared health hazards.

Even at Education Pitsos, nothing has ever been said about colleges of Education. The focus has always been on basic education, it was at same where the former Minister stated that teachers (basic education) who do not have accommodation, should look for private accommodation, the rentals of which shall be subsidized, this was never the case for Colleges of Education lecturers, who are expected to pay unsubsidized- high rentals in privately owned houses to allow them to execute their duties, and then later be charged for financial embarrassment.  

 
Another issue that confirms that the lecturers in Colleges of Education are punished for their PATRIOTISM and PROFESSIONALISM, because they have always believed in consultation, is being deliberately disadvantaged in the LEVELS OF OPERATION exercise. This has belittled their status by being remunerated far much less than their own products in primary and secondary schools. This is demoralizing and showing that there is a lot that is not going well in the MOESD.

The Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) has on many instances also tried to engage the former Minister of Education and Skills Development, together with the former Permanent Secretary, on the FCE closure after reading about it from the newspapers and also on the issue of ‘Levels of Operation’ at its earliest stage, but the Hon. Minister kept on postponing the meetings until she left office. It is disturbing to have Ministers who in this era, can stand up and boldly attest to issues that they are not informed on as it has recently been the case. My belief has always been that people should be sure about issues before presenting them, especially to a high body like parliament.

All the staff at Francistown  College of Education is saying is; documentation be availed to notify them of the intention of the government, and to make sure that their jobs are secured, by way of giving them  priority in what is going to become of FCE as it transforms (as the government claims).

MARTHA TINNY MOLEMA
PUBLICITY & EDUCATION SECRETARY
TRAINERS & ALLIED WORKERS UNION (TAWU)

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Opinions

EXTRAVAGANCE One of The Scourges in Society.

9th February 2023

Extravagance in recent times has moved from being the practice of some rich and wealthy people of society in general and has regrettably, filtered to all levels of the society. Some of those who have the means are reckless and flaunt their wealth, and consequently, those of us who do not, borrow money to squander it in order to meet their families’ wants of luxuries and unnecessary items. Unfortunately this is a characteristic of human nature.

Adding to those feelings of inadequacy we have countless commercials to whet the consumer’s appetite/desire to buy whatever is advertised, and make him believe that if he does not have those products he will be unhappy, ineffective, worthless and out of tune with the fashion and trend of the times. This practice has reached a stage where many a bread winner resorts to taking loans (from cash loans or banks) with high rates of interest, putting himself in unnecessary debt to buy among other things, furniture, means of transport, dress, food and fancy accommodation, – just to win peoples’ admiration.

Islam and most religions discourage their followers towards wanton consumption. They encourage them to live a life of moderation and to dispense with luxury items so they will not be enslaved by them. Many people today blindly and irresponsibly abandon themselves to excesses and the squandering of wealth in order to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.

The Qur’aan makes it clear that allowing free rein to extravagance and exceeding the limits of moderation is an inherent characteristic in man. Allah says, “If Allah were to enlarge the provision for his servants, they would indeed transgress beyond all bounds.” [Holy Qur’aan 42:  27]

 

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Observe the middle course whereby you will attain your objective (that is paradise).” –  Moderation is the opposite of extravagance.

Every individual is meant to earn in a dignified manner and then spend in a very wise and careful manner. One should never try to impress upon others by living beyond one’s means. Extravagance is forbidden in Islam, Allah says, “Do not be extravagant; surely He does not love those who are extravagant!” [Holy Qur’aan 7: 31]

The Qur’aan regards wasteful buying of food, extravagant eating that sometimes leads to throwing away of leftovers as absolutely forbidden. Allah says, “Eat of the fruits in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. And waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Holy Qur’aan 6:  141]

Demonstrating wastefulness in dress, means of transport, furniture and any other thing is also forbidden. Allah says, “O children of Adam! Wear your apparel of adornment at every time and place of worship, and eat and drink but do not be extravagant; surely He does not love those who are extravagant!” [Holy Qur’aan 7:  31]

Yet extravagance and the squandering of wealth continue to grow in society, while there are many helpless and deprived peoples who have no food or shelter. Just look around you here in Botswana.

Have you noticed how people squander their wealth on ‘must have’ things like designer label clothes, fancy brand whiskey, fancy top of the range cars, fancy society parties or even costly weddings, just to make a statement? How can we prevent the squandering of such wealth?

How can one go on spending in a reckless manner possibly even on things that have been made forbidden while witnessing the suffering of fellow humans whereby thousands of people starve to death each year. Islam has not forbidden a person to acquire wealth, make it grow and make use of it. In fact Islam encourages one to do so. It is resorting to forbidden ways to acquiring and of squandering that wealth that Islam has clearly declared forbidden. On the Day of Judgment every individual will be asked about his wealth, where he obtained it and how he spent it.

In fact, those who do not have any conscience about their wasteful habits may one day be subjected to Allah’s punishment that may deprive them of such wealth overnight and impoverish them. Many a family has been brought to the brink of poverty after leading a life of affluence. Similarly, many nations have lived a life  of extravagance and their people indulged in such excesses only to be later inflicted by trials and tribulations to such a point that they wished they would only have a little of what they used to possess!

With the festive season and the new year holidays having passed us, for many of us meant ‘one’ thing – spend, spend, spend. With the festivities and the celebrations over only then will the reality set in for many of us that we have overspent, deep in debt with nothing to show for it and that the following months are going to be challenging ones.

Therefore, we should not exceed the bounds when Almighty bestows His bounties upon us. Rather we should show gratefulness to Him by using His bestowments and favours in ways that prove our total obedience to Him and by observing moderation in spending. For this will be better for us in this life and the hereafter.

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The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosis actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as international waters.

Pelosis visit to Chinas Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqus. In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to Chinas position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The Peoples Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijings position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwans administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Bidens words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region. The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as Taiwan independence. The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for Chinas Peoples Liberation Army to safeguard Chinas national sovereignty, security and development interests. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard Chinas overseas investments, projects and personnel. It then follows that President Xis administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector Chinas sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part. Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The Peoples Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces. This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijings military exercises will certainly shake Taiwans confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwans central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As Chinas military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit Chinas Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to Taiwan independence separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the Peoples Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswanas democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogaes assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in theBulela Ditswedispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswewas an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties ruling and opposition have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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