Saturday, October 16, 2021

Even as it continues to offer French, Limkokwing retrenches its only French lecturer

For some time now, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology has had only one French lecturer offering the subject to tourism students. In a world where bilingualism in the two most important international languages enhances one marketability in the job market, teaching French to English-speaking students appears to have been a good idea. What appears to be a questionable one now is retrenching that one lecturer when the subject will be offered when classes starts next month.

According to Limkokwing’s spokesperson, Mercy Thebe, the university could not afford to have full-time permanent staff teaching the French module to fewer and fewer students. She revealed that the university is phasing out the programme altogether as it is proving non-viable to run from both an academic and commercial perspective.

“Should the remaining students register for this module this upcoming semester, the university will have to engage a part-time lecturer which will be more appropriate,” Thebe said.

At this point it is unclear what will happen but sources tell us that Limkokwing plans to offer four French for Beginners classes and two French II classes when the next semester starts in a few days. We learn that for now at least, the university doesn’t have the option of discontinuing both modules because they are being offered as part of an ongoing programme that was approved by the Botswana Qualifications Authority. 

The situation in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment is much more confusing.

Last Wednesday, three lecturers in this faculty were retrenched. The explanation that has been given for the retrenchment is that over the years, students numbers have been steadily falling, necessitating such action. However, an official document passed to Sunday Standard shows that the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment is seriously understaffed. A footnote detail on a table that shows class allocation for the February-July 2017 semester reads: “20 new staff members + 4 Part-timers are needed to relieve staff from overloading.” About “overloading”: the workload of each lecturer is 24 hours a week and those who exceed this threshold are said to have overloaded.

Thebe has described as “completely false” allegations that two days after retrenching staff, the university conducted job interviews to find replacements. She confirmed that interviews were indeed conducted but were meant to fill posts at the Sierra Leone campus. Such posts, she added, “were advertised internally and local staff were given first priority to go to other campuses as a way of minimising the impact of staff reduction.” At least four retrenchees say that they were never given an opportunity to go to other campuses. That is indeed confirmed by the president of the Trainers and Allied Workers Union, Frizon Moyo.

“That statement is absolutely not true. Such offers were never made,” he said.

According to a collective labour agreement between the university and TAWU, employees that are laid off shall be recalled in accordance with their length of service and “no new hands in the same category shall be employed while regular employees are laid off, provided such regular employees desire to return.”

Either by design or otherwise, the retrenchment has wiped all but one office holder of the union branch leadership. The latter is said to have been as inactive as to not have attracted management’s attention. A retrenchee says that in the event that the ill-fated like himself are rehired, the university would ensure it pays them lower salaries, wean them off trade unionism and get them to acquiesce to wearing black. Another retrenchee alleges that at its core, the retrenchment is a cold-blooded cost-cutting exercise.

“We were employed as permanent and pensionable staff and if we are re-employed, it would most definitely be on a temporary basis without all the benefits that come with being permanent and pensionable,” the source said.

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