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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).


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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 Botswana’s 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, Mogae’s 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 the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, 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 Ditswe was 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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The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

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