Let me start by appreciating the opportunity that you have given us to make a brief statement to this Honourable House regarding recent events in some of tertiary institutions, both public and private. Students’ discontent has revolved mainly around three issues: Late payment of living allowances; Non- accredited programmes; and High prices charged by book shops that operate within campuses. I will proceed to address these three issues in detail. Let me start with the issue of payment of living allowances. The normal process is that before a student can be given an allowance, the institution where he or she is studying should have submitted information to the Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF) on that students’ registration status at the beginning of every semester. This is a control measure geared towards avoiding paying students who may have discontinued. In this particular matter, there were no complaints regarding payments for January 2017 since all DTEF sponsored students were paid their January 2017 allowances at the end of December 2016. This was done in recognition of the fact that the registration process for Semester 2 was only going to take place in January. However, in processing the February 2017 students’ living allowances, all institutions were expected to submit academic results and registers to the DTEF on time to enable the Department to update each student’s status and process their payments. Unfortunately, most institutions failed to comply with this requirement. Consequently, students’ allowances were not credited on time. It would not be advisable to continue paying students allowances when there is no evidence from the institutions that they are active. That can only lead to the phenomenon that people often call “ghost students”. Such instances arise when payments are made to students who do not exist, some of whom may have discontinued their studies at the end of the semester. In order to enable DTEF to pay eligible students’ allowances on time, institutions need to review their processes, particularly; the administration of supplementary examinations, the processing and release of results and the management of registration. With regard to the accreditation issue, it is indeed true that some of the programmes that the students are enrolled in are not fully accredited. It is worth highlighting that the current scenario is a product of a transition of past regulations that allowed students to enrol for programmes which could be provisionally accredited, approved but not yet accredited.
Before the establishment of the Botswana Qualifications Authority, Higher Education institutions were accredited by the Tertiary Education Council. In terms of the Accreditation of Private Tertiary Institutions Regulations regulation 4 (1) of 2008, a programme specified in the application for accreditation must have been offered for at least one academic year and have been the subject of internal process approved by the Council through the issue of a certificate of registration. This is the process that resulted in a situation where a programme could be approved to run and enrol students before it is accredited. The following status can be attained from the programme review process: Approved – The programme is validated by the subject matter experts following which the ETP is given permission to offer the programme. This means the learning programme can be run and students can be enrolled. Under this system a student could graduate from a programme before it is accredited and the qualification would be recognised by TEC. Accreditation: In the accreditation process a higher education programme could be given a status as follows: Full Accreditation: This is given to a programme which has met minimum requirements. Provisional Accreditation – This is given to a programme which has met most of the minimum requirements. The institution is expected to have closed the identified gaps within six months. The institution is allowed to enrol new learners. Deferred Accreditation – This is given to a programme which has not met most of the minimum requirements and the identified gaps cannot be closed within a year. In this instance, the institution is not allowed to enroll new learners into the deferred programme and must teach out the students. Rejected – This means a programme is denied accreditation and should cease to run. Under the then TEC system, students who graduate from the programmes under the status of approved, deferred accreditation and provisional accreditation attain recognised awards. In April 2014, quality assurance functions for higher education were transferred from the Human Resource Development Council to Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA). Given that BQA Regulations were not ready, the Authority operated with regulations of the two legacy systems, the HRDC and BOTA. At the time of handover of quality assurance of higher education from Human Resource Development Council, it was observed that most of the learning programmes were on approval stage and were due to be submitted for accreditation. As a result, BQA instructed all Education and Training Providers to submit the affected learning programmes for accreditation. Regrettably most of the Education and Training Providers did not submit the application for accreditation as instructed. BQA could not close these providers because there was no legal provision for such an action. Subsequent to this, a meeting was held on the 12 May 2016 between BQA, HRDC, DTEF, MoESD and the ETPs. The Minister of Education and Skills Development instructed BQA to extend approval for all programmes that had been submitted for accreditation as at 12 May 2016 for purposes of sponsorship. The extension was for a period of 6 months. The Education and Training Providers were advised to request permission from DTEF to enrol students in programmes that were still being processed for accreditation.
Accreditation under the new regulations
In terms of the BQA Act and its regulations, all Educations and Training Providers (ETPs), either public or private, including general education, are to be registered and accredited with the Authority. Furthermore no learning programme can be offered until it has been accredited. The regulations cover all schools, workplaces, consultancies, NGOs etc., that provide education and training at all levels. We are fully determined to deal with this matter. Firstly, Madam Speaker, we are going to ensure that Government sponsorship for all new students will be confined to accredited programmes only. It is, therefore, incumbent upon all the institutions to ensure that their programmes are accredited. With regard to those students who are already enrolled in programmes that are not fully accredited, institutions will be expected to ensure compliance within the next six months. Regarding book allowance, The Department of Tertiary Education Financing is responsible for paying allowances for the purchase of students’ books and other learning materials. Allowances are paid directly to students except for students enrolled at the University of Botswana, Limkokwing University, Botho University, Botswana Accountancy College and Botswana International University of Science and Technology where allowances are paid directly to institutions and credited into students’ cards. The already mentioned institutions have contracted private bookshops to set up in their campuses for the purpose of selling books and other learning materials to students. With this arrangement, students can only buy the required learning resources from the on-campus bookshops. We are aware that The Botswana Competition Authority has registered its discomfort with this arrangement. The students are of the view that the book allowance should be credited into their accounts as it is done in other institutions. As a result, we shall with effect from the next academic year credit the book allowance directly to the students’ accounts. This will therefore ensure that there is uniformity and consistency on the disbursement of book allowances with other institutions as well as bringing closure to students’ concerns on this matter. Going forward the Ministry is developing Service Level Agreements (SLA) which will be used to monitor service delivery of Education and Training Providers. With respect to the University of Botswana, the Council met on Monday 13th February 2017 and a decision has been taken to the effect that the University will re-open on 6th March 2017. Disciplinary action will be taken against individuals who looted or caused malicious damage to property. As a nation we need to collectively condemn all acts of violence in all its forms but rather that we should engage in constructive dialogue: “Ntwa kgolo ke ya molomo.”
*Alfred Madigele, the minister of tertiary education’s statement to Parliament on February 15, 2017.