SWEARING IN CEREMONY: Mokgweetsi Masisi was endorsed Vice President by Members of Parliament this month. President Lt Gen Ian Khama immediately announced that the new Vice President will continue to serve as Minister of Education and Skills Development. He is currently being assisted by Dr Dow and Mr Moiseraela Goya in the Ministry.
Vice President Eric Mokgweetsi Masisi has revealed that he will not be Minister for long because he will in the near future move over and give way to one of his juniors or whoever President Lt Gen Ian Khama will find suitable to head the Ministry of Education and Skills Development.
Masisi was named in President Khama’s Cabinet, an announcement that preceded the endorsement of Vice President by Parliament. Soon after his appointment as Vice President, it was announced that the Vice President will still continue as Minister.
The Vice President was also appointed the Chairman of the National AIDS Council, a position which was held by former President, Dr Festus Mogae. Masisi is currently assisted by Dr Unity Dow and Mr Moiseraela Master Goya at Education.
MP ARONE’S MOTION Last week Masisi met with the head of Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) and shared his disdain for a motion calling for the investigation of tertiary institutions in the country.
The meeting between Masisi, in his capacity as Minister of Education and Skills Development, and the Authority, happened last week Friday, a few hours after Member of Parliament for Okavango, Bagalatia Arone’s motion requesting government to appoint a task team to establish whether all private tertiary institutions in Botswana have attained the required organisational attributes to provide quality tertiary education.
The reasons behind the motion were that since the advent of private tertiary institutions in Botswana, not much has been done to ensure that provision of higher quality education was provided through such institutions, and as such a task team should be assigned to see to it that they complied as prescribed in their accreditations.
He said the expectation of provision of tertiary education in Botswana was to provide quality education; therefore, there should be a fundamental way of thinking regarding approaches that will lead to successful implementation of standards leading to quality education in Botswana.
He said, to determine whether the country was on the right track in terms of provision of quality education in private institutions there was need to establish such a task team.
The motion was rejected on the floor of Parliament this week. The majority party in parliament used its numbers to reject the motion.
At the meeting between VP Masisi, BQA Acting Chief Executive Officer and BQA staff, Masisi expressed his disdain for MP Arone’s motion calling it “a shame.” Abel Modungwa also dismissed the intentions of the motion, saying it sought to cast aspersions on the mandate of the BQA.
Masisi dismissed the motion saying some of these issues “we passed them fifteen, twenty years ago. Masisi challenged the BQA to rise and be counted: “Do not be a regular Authority.”
He revealed that Government is fully aware that diamonds are not forever and that the human resource skills in the country will have to become the most valuable asset for the country.
The country is faced with an acute mismatch of available skills and the requirements of industries and the newly rationalized BQA as well as the Human resources Development Council (formerly Botswana Training authority and Tertiary Education Council respectively), are charged with fixing the mismatch by engaging industries to determining their needs when setting up training programmes.
For his part, Mondungwa promised that the BQA will do its best and that Masisi “will lose elections for other reasons, not because BQA failed to deliver.”
Masisi implored BQA to be more relevant and prove its quality assurance mandate in major projects that are happening countrywide, including Dikgathong Dam, and the mining of steel and iron in Shakawe. “We have a reputation for development and Governance but where are the standards?” asked Masisi.
To buttress his point, Masisi revealed that the head of an Indian business development firm, National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) which will together with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) set up a Rapid Incubation Center to impart technical and business skills, actually got his business and administrative acumen while working in the Ministry of Finance in this country.
JOB CREATION Masisi took the opportunity to spell out the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s intentions regarding job creation, saying: “We promised jobs and there will be jobs,” adding it is a planning issue and a matter of statutory requirements.
Masisi said major projects that will provide jobs include: the planned Lobatse Leather Park, the Cut 9 project at Debswana Diamond Mine in Jwaneng; agro business project at the along the Zambezi River and two new power stations, a greenfield and brownfield project that are currently being commissioned.
He also pointed out that the much maligned Ipelegeng Public Works programme is here to stay, adding that, “we have limited resources, we are not in Norway neither do we have oil.”
Masisi also touched on the issue of the standing orders court case brought forth by the Attorney General, which delayed the commencement of parliament, saying “We knew something that you didn’t know, but we got our wish in the end and we remained faithful to our leader.”
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.”