BOPEU wishes to register its concern regarding the deepening education crisis, which is currently engulfing our country. The recent violent protests in Tertiary Institutions are worrying and needs concerted efforts to resolve amicably without any further delay. BOPEU calls on all stakeholders in the Education sector to collaborate with each other in finding a long lasting solution to the crisis. The closure of the University of Botswana and University of Botho is an indication that all is not well with our tertiary education. As a trade Union, and indeed a member of the Civil Society, we are of the view that the concerns raised by the student community are legitimate and requires urgent attention from the authorities. Some of the issues causing friction in Tertiary Institutions include the lack of accreditation of academic courses with the Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA), the recruitment of unqualified lecturers in Tertiary institutions, the handling of the student book allowances and the late crediting of the student living allowances by the Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF). We believe that these are legitimate and genuine concerns. BOPEU cherishes civil liberties such as freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. We are of the view that the State and University Managements must not curtail these civil liberties unreasonably. To the contrary, the State must protect these freedoms and the safety of the students. On the same note, BOPEU advices the student community to pursue their legitimate demands and concerns, within the ambit of the law.
The destruction of public property and vandalism can never be justified in any circumstances. BOPEU calls on University Managements and the Student Representative Councils (SRCs) to engage in constructive dialogue in order to resolve all outstanding issues amicably. As a Union, we are proud to be associated with the recent victories scored by both the University of Botswana (UB) Students and the students of Botho University at the High Court. Learned Counsel Kago Mokotedi who is an employee of BOPEU ably represented the students. As a Union, we availed resources to him to assist the student community in the Courts of law for redress. In the University of Botswana case, the Students were evicted from Campus leaving behind vital personal effects such as medicines and travelling documents after the University was closed down. Justice Radijeng granted the students supervised entry into the University to collect their personal effects. As a Union, we must applaud the University of Botswana Management for implementing the Court Order expeditiously in order to assist students. We encourage the University of Botswana Management and the SRC to open channels for engagements to improve communication going forward. In the Botho University case, the Student Representative Council and other students were suspended from the University without any charge and or disciplinary process. As a Union, we felt compelled to assist the students to access justice.
We are delighted to announce that Botho University Management settled the matter in Court without any need for arguments. The Court Order granted by Justice Rannowane of Gaborone High Court uplifted the suspension of the Botho University Students and further ordered the University to provide remedial classes and Assessments, which the students missed because of their suspension from Botho University. The University was also ordered to pay costs of the application. As BOPEU, we want to thank to thank the Management of Botho University for rising above and settling the matter without incurring further costs and delay. That demonstrated the willingness of Botho University to engage with its students amicably in starting a new chapter. However, we advise that University Managements should not wait for court process in order to engage with its students. BOPEU calls for calm and constructive dialogue in tertiary institutions. Punitive disciplinary processes are not the solution to address the crisis besieging our Tertiary Institutions. They will only heighten tensions and animosity on our campuses. As a Union, we wish to congratulate the legal team that represented the student community in the Courts of law. We call for the amicable resolution of the student legitimate demands and the opening of Universities. It is in the best interest of our country and the education system to have Universities open and running.
Issued by Cde Masego Mogwera