Government is considering scaling back its ambitious Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) following indications that the more than P10 billion project would turn into a white elephant.
BIUST was to go on stream in March 2011 with an initial intake of 256 students per year. During the ‘Growth Phase’, the university would increase its numbers to 3 000 or 4 000 students, i.e. an intake of 1 000 per year. The plan has, however, been put on ice because of the delay in construction. “There have been delays in the construction. Next Year may not be possible”, said Venson-Moitoi.
Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information that even if construction were on schedule, the university would not be able to raise the 256 student for the March 2011 intake. Following the recent economic down turn, government has had to cut back on tertiary education sponsorship funding, and science students had the worst of it. Although the University of Botswana had 750 slots for science students during the 2010 academic year, government has only been able to sponsor 600.
With UB barely filling the slots for science students, there would be none left for the new university.
Minister Venson-Moitoi told Sunday Standard that they are currently working on a rationalization programme. Sources close to the project say this may involve scaling down BIUST from an international university to a technicon. Venson-Moitoi would not be drawn into discussing this possibility saying, “all I can say is that there will be a school in Palapye”.
For some time, government seemed committed to the BIUST projects. When recession forced cuts to many development projects, the P429 million contract for Phase 1 was not affected.
Government is, however, reconsidering its commitment to the project and has assigned consultants to evaluate the viability of the phase 2 of the project, which is planned as a Public Private Partnership. Minister Venson-Moitoi said she was still awaiting a report from the consultants to determine if government can afford it.
It is understood that BIUST with its huge salaries already accounts for 10 percent of the Ministry of Education’s annual budget. The scaling back of BIUST is expected to affect scores of down-stream businesses which expected to benefit from the P10 billion project.
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