The Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Mpho Balopi already finds himself caught between a rock and hard place over the continuous crisis that plaques the national brigades and technical colleges, as students enrolled are not taught.
When responding to a question from Maun East MP, Goretetse Kekgonegile on Thursday, Balopi admitted that brigades face serious challenges. Rife problems within the government owned technical colleges persist despite efforts by Botswana Qualification Authority (BQA) of transitioning tertiary education including the brigades. BQA has swiftly moved on to ensure that all learners enrolled at higher education providing institutions including technical colleges learn accredited courses but it is still a challenge in some.
Maun East legislator, Kekgonegile had asked minister Balopi if he is aware of crisis taking place amongst both the learners and members of staff at the Maun Technical College for long time. He also wanted Balopi to state the number of learners admitted at the institution as at 30th October 2018, as well state the accredited and non-accredited as of 0ctober 30th 2018 too.
Responding to the question, Balopi said he is aware of the challenges besieging Maun Technical College, but will not argue with Kekgonegile’s depiction of a crisis situation saying it is varied. "I say this because I am aware that the circumstances at the Maun Technical College happen to prevail to 36 brigade institutions and technical colleges, which fall under my ministry,” he said.
He maintained that he has already given Parliament a general brief on the underlying problems in brigades, as well as ongoing consultations to resolve the issues. As a result of the situation, Palapye Technical College students on Tuesday vented out their frustrations through demonstrations and handed a petition to the District Commissioner. They demanded that their welfare be upgraded also insisting that teaching be resumed as they have been going without lectures for a long period of time, due to absence of teaching staff.
In June, Jwaneng Technical College students also expressed concern over poor welfare which amongst others includes training on non- accredited courses and demanding an increase in their allowances. The boycot of classes by Jwaneng Technical College students forced vice president Slumber Tsogwane to plead with students promising them change for the better. Airing their grievances to VP Tsogwane, students explained that they are not happy with issues such as of unaccredited courses, shortage of staff and insufficient monthly allowance of P360.
In a bid to address the challenges facing the technical colleges, Balopi said in the context of ensuring smooth learning at Maun College, his ministry is already considering several solutions. The solutions, he said, include reverting to old programmes, which were accredited by the Botswana Training Authority (BOTA) but remain active under Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA). He also revealed that there are 19 accredited courses offered at Maun Technical College, which include amongst others Machine Fitting, Plumbing, Carpentry and Joinery and Auto Mechanics.
Moreover, he urged Parliament to remain assured saying that consultations with relevant stakeholders are ongoing to address current or emerging issues in all of brigade institutions.