Thursday, November 30, 2023

Just how sustainable are our universities?

We need to keep examining the nature of our education system – its models, and the various facets that make up its financing it.

In the 1980s, Botswana Government took a bold step to build institutions that would provide teachers, especially for junior secondary schools that had been built in large numbers across the country.

First to be built was Molepolole College of Education (MCE).

It was later to be followed by Tonota College of Education (TCE).

For well over 20 years, these two colleges, together with the university of Botswana churned out teachers for various subjects that the education system needed.

A few years ago it became clear that the demand for teachers had reached a plateau.

Now there is absolutely no demand for teachers. In fact today, like many other graduates, multitudes of qualified teachers do not have jobs.

The best many of them can afford is to get hired as temporary jobs.

It would seem like the glorious days of the teaching profession are behind us.

So too are the hey days of both MCE and TCE.

The two colleges are literally crumbling down.

Enrollment has dwindled to its lowest levels since the two were established.

The two are not the only ones.

Across the country, Teacher Training Colleges, which used to train teachers for primary schools are also reaching the end of their lives. The one at Lobatse has long closed down.

All these require clarity on what should be done.

It also puts added pressures on our institutions of learning to prove that they are indeed sustainable.

This is particularly important because all these institutions have always been dependent on Botswana Government sending students their way and paying for those students.

Limkokwing especially made a killing when Botswana Government sent hundreds of students to Malaysia.

So impressed was Limkokwing that it decided to set up a campus in Botswana..

That was then.

The number of students has dwindled to such low numbers that make the long term viability of the operation questionable.
Limkokwing is not alone. University of Botswana is currently restructuring.

Botswana Open University is under some financial distress.

These are universities that are nominally owned by the Government of Botswana.

Yet financial assistance has been hard to come by, largely on account the deepening economic situation which has forced government to cut down on the number of students it can finance.

Several other colleges and universities have made it clear that they are worried by the low numbers of government financed students enrolling with them.

That was inevitable.

Tragically, the Ministry of Education has been quiet. That is not the solution.

Selective intervention is in order.

But the ministry should not try to throw money at the problem.

Quota system that the ministry used in the past to apportion students between universities was a terrible idea.

It cost government a lot of money,.

And subsidized mediocrity too.

We call on government to take a close look at the viability of the various institutions.

It is important to take a relook if MCE and TCE could still be saved.

If it is worth it, then the government should do it.


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