University of Botswana students who hitherto have been low cost tenants of choice may find it difficult to rent houses following a decision to cut their allowances during long vacations.
The UB Department of Student Welfare communicated a memorandum to students on Thursday April 2, informing them that they will not be paid off-campus living allowance.
This means that students would be forced to enter into lease agreements of less than 12 months which would make it difficult to find willing landlords.
The communiqu├® is a direct announcement from the Ministry of Education and Skills Development and was signed by the UB’s Director of Student Welfare, Dr. K.N Sedisa.
Students are up in arms at the ministry’s “harsh decision”, citing it as unfair.
A student, who would not be named said, “Students from afar will be forced to vacate their rented houses and move their belongings from Gaborone to their home villages during vacations.”
The memorandum provides that “there will be no payment of off-campus allowance during the long vacation (the May vacation). This change is with immediate effect.”
UB’s long vacation commences in May and ends in July. Students staying off campus are paid a living allowance of P1920 monthly.
The memorandum, which also communicated the ministry’s decisions on sponsorship for retakes and re-sits, read that “the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MOESD) has communicated the following decisions to us to inform the Student community. These changes, save for campus allowance, will take effect at the beginning of the coming academic year (August 2009).”
Contradictorily, Nomsah Zuze, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Education told The Sunday Standard, “As soon as the university closes, at the end of this academic year, off-campus allowance will not be paid during the May to July vacation.”
Zuze denied that these changes will effect this year, saying that will be put into effect during the next UB academic year, which commences in August
She also revealed that they will assure that the residence hall holding capacity at UB is satisfied before allowing for any student to move off campus. She said the decision applies only to the University of Botswana because other government-sponsored colleges do not have residence facilities.
The decisions made also include that government sponsored students residing on campus will receive a standard meal allowance per month. The “standard” amount, however, was not provided for by the communiqu├®.
The Sunday Standard later learnt that the ministry will be paying the students residing on campus a fixed amount of P1208, and expects the students to be responsible for arranging and managing their own meals.
An inside source informed the Sunday Standard that the Moghul and Fedics restaurants, which are the main caterers in the UB campus, will not be paid directly as was initially the case. Sunday Standard also learnt that students will be paid their living allowance for May this year and will not be paid for June and July.
Other issues catered for by the same statement include re-taking and re-sits. The announcement provided that sponsorship for re-takes will be awarded at 10% of the course load for the entire prescribed duration of the program but offered only once. The ministry will only sponsor a failed module once and if a student has exhausted their maximum allowed retakes, they will not be sponsored for the failed course but will be expected to pay for the same directly to the institution.
The ministry will also not pay for any extended period of study as it expects each student to complete his or her studies within the prescribed period of study.
The cessation of allowance for re-taking UB students caused an uproar in February when students held demonstrations that led to the closure of UB, after students destroyed property on campus.
The student welfare office at UB could not be reached for comment.