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Disturbing News About Possible Future Closure of UB?

Bernard Busani

 

While I fully agree that our universities namely, University of Botswana (UB), Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) and Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural sciences (BUAN) should adapt to meet the needs of our economy, it is the responsibility of government as the custodian of these national institutions to ensure that they do that through a systematic and informed process. 

 

The leadership of these institutions must be held accountable if they fail to adapt given the specific direction informed by an agreed strategic plan initiated through the board of directors and government for the given institution.

 

The institutions should not be allowed to suffer and consequently close because of the ineffective and unresponsive leadership of such institutions. These three institutions of higher learning were built and are run through public funds for the benefit of all our people.

 

As Batswana we are very nostalgic about these institutions especially UB that was built by Batswana through ‘motho le motho kgomo’. Any talk of possible closure of these institutions will deeply anger all Batswana. These institutions belong to the nation; they exist to produce people required by the economy and nothing else.

 

If they do not achieve that then it is the responsibility of the owner, the government, to ensure that the courses are developed to serve the nation and if university management is not equipped to deliver that, then they should find leadership that can deliver instead of threatening to close such institutions.

 

These universities do not exist to serve their own interests, but the interests of the nation. These three public universities should not be seen to be competing with one another other; they should rather be complementing each other. They should not be fighting for resources rather they should be working together for win-win outcomes for the nation.

 

If there is any competition it should be on the quality of the products (students) they produce as this would be determined by the quality of the leadership and managements systems at the three institutions. There other difference should be the specific courses they offer, they should not be offering the same courses as that would be tantamount to wasting public funds.

 

I have however noticed that some of the courses offered by UB are also offered by BIUST, there is need to rationalise these to avoid unnecessary and unhealthy completion. The baseline for success for these three institutions should however be the same; the funding criteria; the recruitment criteria; even perhaps the same board of directors for all these institutions.

 

The only defining difference should be the courses they offer and the leadership of these institutions and consequently the quality of the products as intimated above. The number of students enrolled both local and international (attraction) will also differ depending on the courses offered and degree of attraction from the institutions. The government through the board can or should then use this differentiator to apply some corrective measures through performance bonuses and managing out dead wood at these institutions.

 

What prompted me to write this installment is the sad news that has been running the rounds about UB for sometime now about possible future closure due to funding constraints and failure by UB to adapt to changing educational requirements to meet the national economic challenges? Recent alarming revelations attributed to the vice chancellor about the financial status of UB and future possible closure due failure by government to honour its financial obligations paints a sad picture about the fate of our pubic institutions.

 

 The comments attributed to the junior ministers of higher learning which states that UB must ‘adapt or die’ are comments that can be made by the minister who do not appreciate his responsibility and his role in the affairs of UB. He is the sponsor and represents the owner of UB which is government for the people.

 

The nation has entrusted him to oversee and guide UB.  With what has happened to BCL, the 4000 employees, their families, dependent relatives and business around Phikwe, we should not be surprised to here that UB is facing the same fate of closure. Our government has become so cruel, so heartless that anything is possible without any due regard to the outcomes.

 

The vice chancellor is right in his assertions that government should have engaged UB and all its institutions of higher leaning and together come up with short, medium and long term plans for restructuring the existing courses and coming up with new courses that are required by the economy.

 

The government should have engaged effectively and proactively the likes of Business Botswana, Chamber of Mines and Chambers of Commence through HRDC and then provide a directive to UB and all its institutions on which courses to offer by when, giving UB and others reasonable time frame to implement.  I must say I have however seen a list of courses recommended by HRDC to the institutions.

 

I was surprised at some of these courses and wondered who recommended them. I believe they will still not meet the demands of our industries. To me it seems like these courses came from the mushrooming private institutions in the country and most of these courses are irrelevant to the current needs of our economy.

 

These are the courses our government has chosen to sponsor thereby growing the coffers of these private institutions and consequently suffocating UB of much needed sponsorship and cash flow. Have we been sold dummies by many of these institutions? Who are the shareholders of these private institutions, just asking? 

 

By the way as said by Business Botswana recently, industry must do their part through a collaborative effort to up-skill graduates, universities can only provide education and industry must train. This does not just happen though; it is facilitated through a structured approach by government and the private sector.

 

The so called private institutions are wholly sponsored by our government as all the students are sponsored by government using public funds. I wouldn’t be bothered if these institutions were privately sponsored like our primary and secondary private schools which are wholly self-sponsored.

 

The students are mostly self sponsored; the quality of education is much better than that of public schools for a number of reasons including superior leadership and management by the owners and teacher student ratios. Now I would not be bothered if these so called private tertiary institutions where run on the same basis as the private primary and secondary schools.

 

The student going to these schools should be mainly self sponsored or foreign students sponsored by their own government, parents and private institutions. Government should only be sponsoring deserving students who cannot be placed at our three public institutions because such courses are only offered at these private institutions.

 

So these private institutions should only be complementing government efforts to meet our skills development challenges not seeking to be solely sponsored by the public through our government. This to me is like defrauding the nation. These institutions should be bringing in capital in the country not just taking money out of the country and into private hands.

 

Depriving UB and other public intuitions of the requisite financial sponsorship causing possible future closure is the height of ineptitude; sponsoring private institutions is like denying your own children sponsorship and sponsoring your neigbour’s children using your own family resources.

 

This is ludicrous and devoid of logic. We see the same logic where citizens are not given the opportunities for requisite skilling and job placement while we are happy to be getting such skills from others outside the country; accepting the bigoted notion that our people are lazy and unproductive when in fact we are responsible for the laziness and unproductive spirit we seen to decry. This is duplicity that our future generations will loathe us for.

 

In conclusion, the government must not be thinking of shutting UB at all or even down sizing it, rather they should be working with UB to develop tailor made courses for the nation using infrastructure already developed. We hear of missing unaccounted millions of Pula in the ministry of education and elswhere, so money is not the problem, the problem is leadership and management of our national resources. I rest my case.

 

EMAIL: Bernard.busani@gmail.com    Tel: 71751440

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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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