The Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology Dr Alfred Madigele says government sponsorship for prospective University of Botswana (UB) students has gone down because students are shunning the institution. Madigele was responding to a question by the Gaborone Central Member of Parliament Phenyo Butale in Parliament on Friday. Butale had wanted Madigele to brief the house on the long-term sustainability of UB as a public institution in the wake of recent cuts in students sponsored by government and the government’s failure to pay tuition fees to the university for many years. “Students are now shunning UB and prefer private tertiary institutions,” Madigele said. According to him, it is now an open secret that most UB graduates tend to excel extremely in theory but lack on the job skills and hence perform badly at the workplace because the university fails to inculcate apprenticeship among its students. This lack of exposure to the workplace by UB, according to Madigele, it would seem gives private institutions the upper hand over it, hence students end up choosing them over UB.
Madigele maintained that his ministry has not occasioned any cuts with respect to the number of new students sponsored at the University of Botswana and rather on the contrary, the university has not been able to attract sufficient students to meet quota allocated to it. According to Madigele, the only time UB was able to exceed the quota of the new students allocated to it was in 2015/16 when it exceeded its quota by an additional 89 students. “We subsequently increased its quota from 2305 in 2015/16 to 2905 this financial year (2016/17). Unfortunately the university has only managed to attract 2230 applicants. There is, therefore, a shortfall of 675 new students,” he said. This statistics, according to Madigele, clearly indicates that the government continues to support the University of Botswana and it has not reduced the number of students being sponsored at the institution. “In addition, we have implored the management of the university to come up with a turnaround strategy that will enable them to attract more students into its academic programmes,” he said.The Gaborone Central MP had moved that he has it on good authority that the university coffers were running dry so bad that after paying December salaries there will be literally nothing left. The situation, according to Butale, had been exacerbated by government’s failure to pay tuition fees for government sponsored students at the institution. Minister Madigele, however, denied any knowledge of such information. He instead stated that government has consistently paid tuition fees to the University of Botswana except for the financial year 2013/14.
The decision not to pay, according to Madigele, was taken after a review of the financial statement of the University of Botswana (UB). “The exercise, which was undertaken in 2012/13, showed that the university had large bank balances of over two billion Pula,” Madigele said. The funds, according to Madigele, were mainly from funds that were allocated for capital projects and accumulated interests which the University then used on further developments without getting anything from government. It is then, he said, that the ministry agreed with the university to use its reserves to cover for tuition. This arrangement, he said, did not affect the university’s financial status as the financial reserves were still recorded for the subsequent financial years 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17.