A task force appointed by the Minister of Education to review and advise Government on the efficacy of the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) has recommended for the University project to continue.
The taskforce has also told government that it is important that the Palapye based university should receive the first batch of student in January 2012.
There had been doubts on whether or not Government should continue with BIUST given the changed education and economic landscapes since the project was approved by former President Festus Mogae.
So strong are the taskforce’s recommendations on continuing with the project that a suggestion has also been made to government to investigate the reasons behind the delay in starting construction of the founding campus.
The task force led by a former academic Happy Fidzani has however recommended that instead of a big bang the project should be continued in a phased manner.
The taskforce has also called for an investigation leading to the “wastage of P46 million on both boundary wall and the bridge needed to go over the North-South carrier water pipeline” and it further calls for action to be taken to avoid future imprudence.
The taskforce has also suggested that the Serowe Institute of Health Sciences be used as a campus in the interim while the University undertakes construction of its second phase.
The University hopes to open and have its first intake in January next year.
In its current state, BIUST can take up to 256 students and the second phase might just take time to complete and, going into its second year if it opens, the University will double capacity hence suggestions for Serowe Institute of Health Sciences to temporarily house some of the learners while the project is ongoing.
The Ministry of Education has further been called upon to urgently implement the recommendations from the study to avoid further costs overruns.
Perhaps noting government’s financial limitations, the task force has opined that a “big bang approach” may not be feasible and adds that constructing the University in phases would even allow for evaluation “for the projects and programmes being proposed, thus enabling the University to offer tested programmes relevant to the market”.
The task force has advised the University to focus on Civi, Mechanical and Engineering courses at both undergraduate and graduate but on supply driven basis.
“Any other areas of proven high national priority will also be offered on supply and demand basis. Such programmes will only be introduced at BIUST if there it is proven for them as well as willingness and ability to fund them,” reads part of the report.
The report also proposes a partnership between the private sector and government in any programmes introduced at the University after a feasibility study has been conducted.
The task force says that although there is a clear duplication of courses between BIUST and the University of Botswana, such is necessary if Botswana is to generate science-based manpower for a knowledge based economy.
BUIST will serve as a research institution, while currently UB does very little research. As such, the task force has also suggested the phasing out of Science, Technology and Engineering courses from UB, saying instead that all this programmes be offered at BUIST.
Also suggested for possible relocation to BIUST are Botswana College of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Research (DAR), National Food Research Technology Centre (NFRTC) and Okavango Research Institute (ORI).
For efficiency purposes, the task force has requested the Ministry of Education and Skills Development to hand over the coordination of the BIUST project to the BIUST council.
The ministry will then require the council to fully account for resources extended to the project in the normal way as is done with UB.
“The sooner the BIUST Council takes over the project, the easier the academic aspects of the project will be infused into the project. Going ahead with the infrastructure development without academic input risks failure of the project to takeoff,” states the taskforce.
It also urges government to equip its primary and secondary education to produce a pool of students interested in pursuing science at tertiary level. The task force has suggested lowering of cutoff points as a way of encouraging students to pursue Science and Technology based subjects.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Education is expected to prepare a cabinet memorandum on the issue, leading to a white paper that will essentially outline the final position of Government on the recommendations by the task force.