Students and Francistowners alike met the announcement that the Francistown College of Education will soon be refurbished with glee. The refurbishment, which many feel has long been overdue, was disclosed to Sunday Standard this week by College Principal Fir-Wonder Masebola.
Masebola said that the refurbishment of the college dates back to NDP 7 but has always been postponed as preference was given to more pressing projects. The refurbishment failed during NDP 7 due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease when government was forced to redirect funds earmarked for the project towards fighting the disease.
Again in NDP 8, the government decided to direct a lot of money to the fight against AIDS and the project was shelved.
“This project was supposed to have started in April 2004 but has always been postponed due to lack of funds,” he said.
Masebola said that they are presently collecting tender bids from constructors and if the PPADB speeds up the adjudication, the project should start in January next year.
Masebola also said that it was important for people to note that this is not an expansion of the college but rather a complete refurbishment.
The college dates back to pre-independence time and the buildings have long passed the stage where they can be maintained.
Though many have expressed concern at the small number of students that the college admits, Masebola said that the project is not an expansion but an improvement of the facilities that are already in place.
FCE is in the city centre and there is no room for expansion. But Masebola revealed that there are plans to build a new and bigger college in Francistown and a piece of land has already been earmarked for the college at Gerald Estates.
“If all goes according to plan we should have a new college in Gerald Estates by 2010, after which the present college will be used as an education center,” he said.
Though he did not reveal how much the refurbishment would cost, Masebola placed the cost at just over P14 million.
Students have long been complaining about the sad state of the buildings and infrastructure at FCE. They allege that the sleeping quarters are not partitioned and the beds are old and squeaky.
Almost all the ablutions are dysfunctional and, since there is no refectory, students are forced to eat outside under tree shades. The sporting facilities are well below the standard of a teacher training institution and physical education students feel that they are not given an ideal opportunity to hone their skills.
Masebola also revealed that the refurbishment would be done in stages to avoid disrupting studies. The hostels, which are some of the most dilapidated buildings, would be given priority in the refurbishment exercise.
By Friday, the college management had already invited students who had accommodation in Francistown to apply for off campus so that those without accommodation could be given first priority once the project got underway.
In recent years Francistown has been receiving major projects to elevate its infrastructure to that befitting a city. On top of the college refurbishment, there is a vocational training centre in Gerald Estates that is expected to open in April next year. A piece of land has been identified along the Maun road in which a top notch P 150 million stadium will be built.
Government officials and politicians have always revealed that most of the development projects in Francistown are hampered by the fact that government always has to buy land from land barons like Tati Company before they can institute them.