Thursday, May 6, 2021

Opposition snubs efforts to transform agric college into university

Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Fidelis Molao last week tabled the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources Bill, which seeks to transform Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA) into a fully fledged university with a new brand identity and mandate.

Molao said the bill will enable the university to address the national development priorities of food security, rural development, economic diversification, youth empowerment and sustainable use of natural resources. Through the bill, BCA will also attain independence by disassociating itself from University of Botswana (UB). After becoming an Associate of UB in 1991, BCA was able to grow from offering just Certificates and Diploma programs to Degree, Master’s and Doctorate programs.

“Clearly the college has matured and it’s time it starts operating as a university.
Transformation to Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources will therefore have minimal impact on structural re-organization and cost,” said Molao.

He added that the college has adequate staff and infrastructure to immediately transform into a university, which includes a 700 hectare farm, classrooms, laboratories, student facilities and staff offices at both Sebele and Lobatse campuses. He further said the new university will contribute towards increasing access to tertiary education by enrolling up to 6,000 students.
“The university will also provide cost effective local training opportunities in agricultural science and thus contribute towards improving food security and poverty eradication,” said Molao.

However, the proposal was dismissed by opposition Members of Parliament Haskins Nkayigwa, who said the transformation was unnecessary as it will not solve the nation’s food security and unemployment problems. Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) legislator, Haskins dismissed the bill as a ruse meant to divert attention from the hot topic of power and water cuts.

“This is just a move to divert attention. How will the university create food security when there is no power and water?” he asked.

He said there is no way the BCA in its current form can attract students from across the continent when it is in such a bad state, further urging government to think about refurbishing BCA instead of transforming it.

“How can we produce food when we don’t have laws that facilitate land ownership for farming? We won’t even be able to attract youth into framing because our farms don’t have basic infrastructure like roads, power and telephone lines,” said Nkayigwa.

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