The government’s contract with an overseas qualifications authority that endorses certificate programmes which the Ministry of Education did not recognise two months ago, will run for another three years.
In the mean time, an application has been made to the Botswana Training Authority to have the Scottish Qualifications Authority programmes accredited while the latter continues to do business with those same programmes.
How the cart came to be placed before the horse is a result of SQA coming into business before BOTA. A few months after the law which established BOTA came into force (November 1999) SQA started endorsing curriculum for the Botswana Technical Education Programmes.
However, earlier this year some BTEP graduates from government-owned technical colleges found themselves in the lurch after the ministry rejected their applications for scholarship. The reason was that their qualifications were not accredited by BOTA. What was most curious about this arrangement was that the permanent secretary in the ministry of education had signed certificates that her ministry did not recognise. The ministry has since gotten around that problem by relaxing the rules and applications that were earlier rejected have now been approved.
“BTEP Certificate will continue to be awarded by the Ministry of Education and endorsed by the SQA thereby providing the international quality kite-mark through the inclusion of the SQA logo and the signature of the SQA Chief Executive on all certificates in accordance with the endorsement criteria agreed by the SQA and the Ministry of Education,” says Godfrey Kalanke, the ministry’s spokesperson.
The issue of non-accredited programmes was brought up in the last session of parliament. Education minister, Jacob Nkate, had to reveal the number of government-owned institutions that offer non-BOTA-accredited courses as well as reveal that they had applied to BOTA to have their programmes accredited.
The contract with SQA, which started in late 1999 and has been renewed twice, will run until 2011.
“The overall purpose of this Service Contract is the continuation of support from the Scottish Qualifications Authority to the Ministry of Education to build technical and professional capacity in the Department of Vocational Education and Training in the curriculum development of Advanced Certificate and Diploma level programme to strengthen the operations and to make available SQA endorsement of the [BTEP] at all levels,” Kalanke says.
BOTA’s otherwise noble mandate is being questioned by some people within the education system. In terms of the law this is the only body in the country that can accredit certificate programmes. This creates problems for people who study with institutions like the University of South Africa and many more reputable schools whose programmes are not accredited by BOTA.
BOTA accreditation is very critical. According to the Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower deputy executive director, Norman Moleele, some companies prefer qualification that is BOTA-accredited when they hire staff.
Doing that is important in that businesses are entitled to tax rebates on training expenses if their employers enroll for courses that accredited by BOTA.