Botho University wishes to inform all stakeholders on the University’s position with regard to the ongoing discussion and dialogue with students on the book allowance provided by the sponsor, namely the Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF) and the services of the campus bookstore.
All students sponsored by Botswana government through DTEF are given a book allowance every semester for the purchase of prescribed books and other academic materials apart from stationary for which a separate allowance is provided.Extensive consultations were held with both the Department of Tertiary Education Financing and the then Botho University Student Representative Councils (SRCs) in all Botho University campuses. In this regard on the 29th May 2015 Botho University management and SRC Presidents from all the three campuses (Gaborone, Francistown and Maun) entered into an agreement which provided that 100% of the book allowance should be paid to the bookstore.
Under this agreement all students have to purchase prescribed or recommended textbooks covering all modules in a semester. Even though the textbooks may end up taking almost all of the book allowance, in the event there is some balance after the purchase, students are allowed to buy any other materials of their choice from the bookstore. This agreement was reached taking into consideration that the students should have at least one book per module for their learning. The agreement was sent to DTEF who also found this to be a prudent option in utilising the book allowance. In view of the need to provide for this service, the University outsourced the provision of books and learning materials to John Smith International (JSI) in June 2015, whereby the bookstore was to meet 100% of the students’ needs in terms of books and other learning materials. The bookstore is governed by a charter that clearly commits to provide competitive pricing of books and learning materials.
The current SRC has however made representations to the University management suggesting that the current book allowance be split in half so that 50% of the allowance is credited to student’s personal bank accounts to enable them to buy learning resources of their choice, while the remaining 50% goes to the bookshop for purchase of prescribed books. It is important to note that only DTEF can approve any such request since the money is disbursed by DTEF and any unused amount is returned to DTEF. The University management therefore arranged for a meeting with DTEF where the Gaborone SRC presented their request to DTEF, during which DTEF clearly stated that the rationale provided was insufficient to change the current arrangement. At the same meeting DTEF also emphasized that students can only use the book allowance for purchase of prescribed books/materials, and that the book allowance should not be treated like a living allowance. Both the University management and SRC agree that books are key to the quality learning experience of the student at Botho and as such the University believes that any policy on the use of the book allowance should ensure that students get access to prescribed and recommended books and learning materials. As management, it is our thought that the book allowance provided to the students is already inadequate to cover the learning materials required for all modules in most of the semesters. Hence to split the allowance may compromise the ability of students to source all relevant learning materials, which would impact the quality of the learning.Based on the SRC’s request, DTEF and the Ministry of Tertiary Education Research Science and Technology (MoTERST) have agreed to investigate and revert back to the SRC and the University with a decision on the matter. In the meantime, the Ministry has advised the SRC that while they (MoTERST) embark on their own investigations, operations at the bookshop should go on as usual/normal. As such, not just the bookshop but all University operations continue as normal.