With enrolment for some academic programmes at the University of Botswana (UB) having dropped, the inevitable has started to happen ÔÇô some of the lecturers who taught those programmes are being shown the door.
Once upon a time, UB was the most preferred tertiary education institution among secondary school leavers but as the Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr. Alfred Madigele, stated in parliament last year, that is starting to change.
“Students are now shunning UB and prefer private tertiary institutions,” Madigele said.
This was actually a mischaracterisation of the situation. At a period of time that the BGCSE pass rate is declining, it is harder to get into UB than into private tertiary education institutions which, as profit-making entities, have set entry requirements very low in order to take in as many students as possible. The sponsorship money follows students and the result is that there has been a corresponding drop in the amount of money that the government spends on UB. Naturally, this threatens the job security of UB lecturers and the first to go are those working on contracts. Beginning last year, UB has been shedding these employees by not renewing their contracts. The faculties of humanities, social sciences and education are the worst affected in a new order where, at least according to the determination of the Human Resources Development Council, the programmes they offer are not considered to be as critical to the economy like health and engineering.
The decision was taken by the former Vice Chancellor, Professor Thabo Fako who resigned last month. Interestingly though, the workload of some of these contracted lecturers is said to have gone up after this decision was taken.
In the past, some of these lecturers might have been able to take up jobs at colleges of education but that is no longer possible with some of the latter have been transformed. It didn’t make sense for these colleges to continue churning out graduates when some graduates from the same colleges were roaming the streets. Some, like the Molepolole College of Education, are now used to train learners enrolled on the Target 20 000 programme through which secondary school leavers are equipped with vocational skills. This situation means that the contracted lecturers now join the hordes of unemployed graduates, some their products.
The job security problem also affects lecturers at private tertiary education institutions where falling rates of enrolment necessarily means immediate retrenchment. Two months ago, the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology retrenched some of its mostly citizen, unionized lecturers due to falling enrolment numbers.
On the whole, the shedding of jobs at tertiary education institutions adds to the national unemployment problem.