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In Defence Of UB

Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD)

Deputy Leader, BCP

 

Lately local media has been awash with reports that the University of Botswana (UB) may close down on account of insufficient funding by the government. UB, as it is popularly known, is the leading public institution of higher learning. It has been a pride of Botswana until the emergence of the current corruption ridden administration.

 

The strong attachment of Batswana to the institution is borne out of the contribution Batswana made towards the construction of the first university in the country. This followed the un-ceremonial nationalization of the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland by the Lesotho (BNLS) government of Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan in 1975.

 

A national appeal coined Motho le Motho Kgomo (One man One Beast) was received with unprecedented enthusiasm across the length and breadth of Botswana.  Batswana from all walks of life contributed their hard earned cash including cash in kind such as animals as well as part of their crop harvests.

 

UB did not disappoint as it produced highly qualified citizens for both the public service and private sector. Its contribution to the development of the country was immense especially during the formative years of Botswana as a nation.

 

The institution produced some of the finest lawyers, economists, historians and archaeologists, public administrators, teachers, library scientists, geologist, engineers to mention but a few. In recent years it reached another milestone with the introduction of a training program in medicine supported by the state of the art hospital.

 

UB prides itself of a pool of academic staff of great intellectual repute with a deliberate international mix. The institution is leading the pack in post-graduate training at all levels. It is not an exaggeration that UB continues to be leading and setting the pace in the area of research.

 

Unfortunately most of the finest research work by UB researchers is left to rot in journals across the globe.  Part of the reason is a general lack of recognition of the importance of evidence based practice as public policy is predominantly informed by common sense and guess work.

 

Insinuation that potential students may be shunning UB is superfluous to say the least especially coming from a government minister. For some of us who were trained and worked at the institution such utterances are an insult. It is possible that the minister was misled by officials who may be in the pockets of private tertiary lobby groups.

 

With reputable academics, relatively excellent teaching and learning facilities including a library of international standards, UB should be the most preferred institution of higher learning. UB must not be pressured to compete with emerging tertiary training institutions because most of them offer vocational training.

 

Any move to transform UB into a vocational training institution must be resisted with the vigour it deserves. This is because its enemies in government are using the employability of UB graduates as a pretext to starve it of financial resources with the ultimate goal of privatizing it.

 

The institution regularly conducts external reviews of academic programs to stay relevant. The issue of employability of UB graduates is used as a scape goat for the failure of government to create jobs. Batswana youth are roaming the streets unemployed while hundreds of foreign workers with less qualification get jobs in this country. At Morupule B alone 400 foreign workers are said to be engaged. 

 

 The woes of the University of Botswana started with emergency and proliferation of opportunistic private institutions. In particular problems began to show when government decided to sponsor students at such institutions. A number of private institutions came into being not to offer any credible training but to make quick money while producing half -baked graduates.

 

Reports of institutions offering programs that are not accredited have become more frequent. It is not uncommon to find a training college offering science-based/medical training without proper or no science laboratories. Imagine a tertiary training college without a fully functional library. Warehouses, garages, and shops have been transformed into schools over-night. There is no doubt that without government sponsorship many will close shop in no time.

 

There are private tertiary institutions that have built a reputation over time especially those that existed before government decided to sponsor students at private institutions. One that comes to mind is Ba Isago University.  It could not have been by coincidence that government decided to sponsor students at private tertiary institutions when new entrants to the market appeared.

 

Today some government ministers are reported to have business links to some tertiary institutions. Corruption, abuse of public office, and conflict of interest cannot be ruled out under the circumstances.As indicated above billions of money has been channelled to sponsor students in tertiary institutions that are known to offer sub-standard programs often unaccredited by the relevant bodies.

 

Surprisingly such institutions are rarely closed down for operating in a way that is in contravention of conditions of registration.  Billions more have been channelled to private tertiary institutions through the so-called Target 20 000. Consequently there is insufficient cash to fully fund the oldest and most prestigious public institution of higher learning. The whole thing smells like a scam. 

 

What is now emerging is a systematic destruction of public tertiary institutions to give way to private ones. Tertiary education is being privatised.  Colleges of education in Francistown and Lobatse have been closed down instead of being transformed into top notch vocational training colleges.

 

Francistown College of Education in particular has been availed to a private tertiary institution under circumstances that remain unclear. Public vocational training colleges are being neglected. Soon we may see vocational training colleges closing down only to be taken over by proxies of the ruling elite for personal enrichment while their children attend reputable overseas institutions.  

 

As government continue to resist the enactment of a law on declaration of assets and liabilities, the situation can only be saved by a change of government in 2019.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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