Friday, July 30, 2021

For digitisation to happen it will require a world-class tertiary education

Digitisation was one of government’s first priorities upon president Mokgweetsi Masisi coming to office.

That was way ahead of the pandemic setting in.

It was also way before he enjoyed making announcements and promises every other day.

At the outset, digitisation made sense.

It is the future.

Every modern economy has to digitize for it to compete.

But certain things have to happen first.

Tertiary education has to be world class.

Financing of tertiary education has become a topical issue.

This is because tertiary education consumes a significant chunk of the national overall budget.

It is also because Botswana’s tertiary education is facing major challenges.

To work properly and at its best, tertiary education demands fairness in its funding.

The current model of financing is totally unsustainable.

In fact this model encourages the “cut and run” that we are now seeing in the sector.

Yet the biggest problem today with Botswana’s tertiary education is that it lacks fairness in its funding.

The challenges are man-made. And are largely a result of corruption and connivance.

As a result quality is on decline.

Not only that, public institutions are facing neglect.

All the money is going to private institutions.

Sadly these private institutions do not prioritise quality.

Whatever profit they get from is taken away.

Inevitably, this drives up the costs.

Lest we forget, the tuition that government pays on behalf of students is a loan.

And if there was any efficiency, beneficiaries would be paying back so that the benefits could continue to other generations.

Government is by far the biggest funder of education in Botswana.

Consequently, corruption among our political leaders is responsible for the decline of world class institutions like the University of Botswana.

Political elite are now teaming up with BQA (Botswana Qualifications Authority) leadership to undermine the quality of these institutions as they channel money and students to fly-by-night colleges owned by their friends in the private sector.

This is how it happens: Private institutions are being favored with high number of students who are in turn financed by government.

This means more money for them and less money for such institutions like university of Botswana and also BIUST) Botswana International University of Science and Technology.

This by itself would not be so tragic if it did not involve reducing the quality of programmes, lecturers and facilities for public institutions.

BQA is totally failing to test institutions to ensure quality assurance.

There is no guidance on the part of BQA to empower students to follow quality.

Students end up enrolling in so-called engineering courses in institutions that are not compliant with instruction given by lecturers that are not compliant.

We have been here before. Thankfully in the past this folly was corrected.

But it is unlikely that it will be corrected again.

In the meantime this unfairness is creating widespread inequities – at institutional level and also at individual student level.

Some of the owners of these institutions have become much more aggressive and assertive.

Giving were growing student numbers seeking sponsorships to enter college, setting up these schools in Botswana has become one of the most lucrative undertaking, especially when the venture is underwritten by knowledge that political connections stand ready to do their part of the bargain.

A high performing tertiary education is absolutely essential, in fact it is a pre-requisite for digitization that Botswana government preaches.

Digital technology or digitization as they put it, is one of the cornerstones of this government.

This by itself requires a retooling of the country’s tertiary education.

It means producing young graduates who are equipped not to look for jobs, but to seek to make products that are needed and appropriate for their communities.

Covid-19 has especially shown the vulnerabilities of traditional learning.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper