Two weeks ago the Vice President of this country His Honour Slumber Tsogwane went to Jwaneng, where he addressed Jwaneng Technical College students in relation to their grievances. This was days after they were brutalised by the armed police for peacefully boycotting classes. In that meeting the vice president assured the students that their grievances will be resolved, and that government was committed to transforming brigades and technical colleges. As the AP-YL we have observed that this government has no real commitment towards addressing the myriad of issues facing education in Botswana, and in this case, technical colleges. The vice president has not said anything that any other government and BDP officials have not said before. This is why we say they lack commitment, in fact not only do they lack commitment, they lack honesty and integrity a they have continually misled and hoodwink students for so long in an attempt to pacify them whenever they got fed up with the pathetic conditions they are subjected to.
As Young Progressives we have been following the situation closely. We have been advising the BDP government ever since 2017 that they need to react to the crisis they have created in our Brigades & Technical Colleges, we have done this in different forums, including a media briefing we held last year. Our position is that the government has failed to address pertinent issues faced by brigades and technical colleges, more especially conditions and welfare of students and teaching stuff. We have listened to students of JTC when they raised their complaints with Vice President Tsogwane. We have also addressed and listened to SRCs and students from different brigades and technical colleges. These problems are the same across board, be it Serowe, Maun. Takatokwane, Kang, Francistown etc. These problems are; shortage of lecturers and equipment, a lecturer-learner ratio is supposed to be1:16 but now you find more than 50 students per class in almost all the schools. There are damaged and dilapidated classes, labs and workshops, with no books, no computers, no material, not even chairs and tables. Students can’t even go for internship and most of them haven’t been taught for more than a year now. The current allowance is P300 per month, subjecting students to starvation and desperation. With these the BDP led government is unofficially exposing students to social ills, feeding our kids to hyenas, promoting prostitution and blesser syndrome. We are aware that student leaders have been silenced and those who demanded answers were suspended and some expelled.
Just last year we cautioned government about a potentially explosive situation in Maun Technical College where apprentice practical exams were cancelled without any explanation nor consultations with the students whom most of them were self-sponsored. The schools are reported to have enrolled many students and hired some teaching stuff recently. We wonder how these people would to cope with the persisting conditions, not forgetting their welfare, unavailability of teaching material and equipment? The vice president missed all these when he addressing the students and teaching stuff at JTC. How would these students cope with an allowance of P300 pula? How would they cope with no chairs and tables, without books and computers, not even workshops for their practicals? When will the government procure equipment that is required? How about the construction and maintenance of classes, labs and workshops? And during that period where will be the teaching stuff and students? Will that not be another waste of public funds and resources? Why did the government allow these brigades and technical colleges to admit students on unaccredited courses and when will the accreditation process be completed? Will these not compromise the quality of vocational education in our country?
After been in power for more than 50 years the BDP led government do not have a clear road map on education, especially education. To demonstrate that the BDP has indeed reached intellectual menopause, in their 2019 manifesto, instead of proposing how they are going to create new jobs in the economy, they are planning on providing unemployment counselling. Clearly now everyone now can see for themselves that the BDP is finished. As AP we are clear on our electoral pledge; we want to create an education system that instils a new value system that is inspired by and nourishes integrity, honesty, truth, decency and respect for the sanctity of the human life. One of our goals is that we’ll ignite a learning and skills development revolution that will inspire passion for success and restore Batswana’s confidence in their capability for self-reliance, excellence, creativity and innovation and thus be the oil for Botswana’s economic locomotive, invest 50% of the education budget on Vocational and Technical training and increase the technical/vocational share of students in secondary school to 50% from the current 8%. To all the youth of Botswana, this is the time, now, for a progressive and transformative agenda!