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The third degree

You would be forgiven for not coming up with the correct answer which is that they are all degree courses on offer in some UK universities.  Yes, that’s right – apparently, they’re all worthy of 3 years study with a BA or BSc waiting at the end. 

How you manage to spend all that time studying the mind of a horse, having outdoor adventures (with philosophy!) or messing about with aromatic oils is anybody’s guess, as is why in the name of all that’s holy, the luckless students on these courses might in their wildest imagination believe that a satisfying career in a well-paid position awaits them after graduation. As for institutions of higher learning that offer these oddball courses, they might have to start looking to their laurels – quite literally.  

Just 3 months ago a former student of Anglia Ruskin instigated legal proceedings against the university, claiming that two years of study has left her with nothing more than a “Mickey Mouse” degree that has not helped her career, despite graduating with a first class.  Pok Wong, a Chinese national, is suing Anglia Ruskin University for more than £60,000.

(P900,000) to reclaim tuition fees and living costs incurred during her 2-year business studies course over claims the institution made about a “quality education and prospect of employment after graduation” which according to Ms. Wong, were fraudulent, “The prospectus convinced me that the university is really impressive,” she told The Sunday Telegraph newspaper “But, as soon as I started in 2011, I realised there were failings. Although I graduated with a first-class degree in 2013, it is a Mickey Mouse degree.”

It is thought the case could set a precedent for how universities present their courses in marketing materials, as students who spend around £9,000 (P135,000) a year for their education demand value for money and see themselves more as a customer. Ms Wong said she moved over from Hong Kong to study at the university’s Lord Ashcroft International Business School in Cambridge after being won over by the claims in the prospectus but the 29-year-old, who has lodged documents with London county court, alleged that the university failed to deliver and accused it of a breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation, listing a lecturer turning up late and students being told to “self-study” among her complaints.

The degree “does not play a role to help secure a rewarding job with prospects”, she claimed, adding that the prospectus had promised the course would leave graduates “well equipped” for jobs in the business world, following two years of “high quality teaching….. “I hope that bringing this case will set a precedent so that students can get value for money, and if they don’t they get compensated. Anglia Ruskin talked a good talk but then they didn’t deliver.”

And it seems that not even the finest academic institutions in the world are safe from similar accusations.  Ms. Wong’s case echoes that of Oxford University graduate,  Faiz Siddiqui,  who tried to sue the institution for £1m (P15m) after it did not give him a first-class degree.
Mr Siddiqui claimed that “negligently inadequate teaching” was partly to blame for his 2:1 degree, which he said prevented him from getting into a top US law school, and, in turn, meant he could not become an international commercial lawyer. 

He lost the case, but Mr Justice Foskett, who delivered the verdict, said that as “students are incurring substantial debts to pursue their university education, the quality of the education delivered will undoubtedly come under even greater scrutiny than it did in the past”. The UK Advertising Standards Authority has also warned universities they must be able to stand up to claims objectively if they make them in their prospectus.

Taking an objective viewpoint, it is clear there are 2 very different issues here;  on the one hand, second or third rate tertiary educational  set-ups serving up what can reasonably be described as second or third rate ‘’Mickey Mouse’ courses in frivolous or obscure studies which would offer graduates few career prospects versus serious academic institutions offering quality tuition in a suitably learned environment but which nonetheless are no guarantee of post-grad employment, only a good prospective, and whose qualifications rely heavily on the hard work and academic prowess of the student.

It’s also fair to say that in recent years in the UK and the USA there has been too much emphasis on the acquisition of a university or college degree, regardless of the quality of the school and the subsequent value of a degree or diploma bearing their name.  Some, indeed, are so ill-recognised, they are simply not worth the paper they are printed on.

Is it not, therefore, time to revert to the old ideas of apprenticeships and on-the-job training for school leavers who are clearly not suited for academia but who nonetheless have practical skills that could and should be developed to take them forward to a bright future?
To put it bluntly, the world needs brain surgeons and astrophysicists but it also needs hairdressers and plumbers;

and whilst, hopefully, if one of us ever has the misfortune to find themselves under the surgeon’s knife for a brain tumour, that it would only be a one-off event, never to return, due in no small cause to the skill or the clinician;  on the other hand, how many times in a single year do we call out our trusted plumber to sort out a leaky tap or a blocked pipe?  As for hairdressers, no, it’s not rocket science, but those astrophysicists still need to get their hair cut once in a while.
You might say, it’s a no-brainer!

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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