Sunday, January 24, 2021

Outsiders influencing students’ class boycott – GIPS

After an almost two-week class boycott by students at the Phakalane campus of the Gaborone Institute of Professional Studies, management is convinced that there are outside forces which are inciting students.

On the seventh day of the boycott, GIPS’ Centre Manager, Grace Mutero, said that it appears there are “some forces” from outside the school that are behind the class boycott. Part of what reinforces that impression, she explained, is that students are now bringing up issues that they have never brought to management’s attention in the past. Students at the Phakalane campus are pursuing three different advanced diploma in engineering programmes and beginning October 8, began boycotting classes. The boycott ended last Wednesday with dissension in the ranks and low morale becoming apparent. The students themselves said that all except one foreign student were boycotting classes while management maintained that only a few were.

While Mutero said that she was not going to mention names, only one outsider has been very active in the saga ÔÇô Gaborone North MP, Haskins Nkaigwa. The MP confirmed to Sunday Standard that he has held meetings with both management and the students. From his interaction with the students, Nkaigwa said that he got the distinct impression that students no longer trust management because it has reneged on promises it made in the past.

“They have reached their tolerance level and are insisting that they should get value for the money the government pays for their education,” said the MP, revealing that he facilitated a meeting between three student representatives and the Assistant Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Fidelis Molao.

According to Nkaigwa, Molao promised to dispatch a joint auditors’ team from the Botswana Qualifications Authority and the Department of Tertiary Education Funding to the school a day after the meeting. Only last week did BQA officials visit the school and to the MP, this “foot-dragging” is ample evidence that there is no anxiety on the part of the two government departments to resolve what is evidently a crisis.

Nkaigwa said that when he visited GIPS’ main campus in Block 6, he noticed that the school’s representatives became visibly worried when he revealed that he had reported the issue to the ministry. In no way does he feel that he fits Mutero’s description of outsiders who are fanning the flames at Phakalane campus.

“They obviously feel that when an MP speaks on behalf of students, then he is interfering in the affairs of their school,” Nkaigwa said. “They should be offering quality education so that there is no need for me to have to intercede on behalf of students. Very few private universities provide quality education and that requires our intervention as representatives. GIPS wants to claim competence to deal with the issues that students raise by itself when it has actually been unable to do so for years.”

Contributing to the 2017/18 budget allocation to the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology last year, Nkaigwa lamented the plight of graduates of institutions like Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, the Gaborone Universal College of Law and GIPS “who roam the streets with nothing to do.” He posed: “Can you employ someone whose CV states that they studied at GUC? No, you cannot employ them, you would rather employ someone from the University of Botswana.”

Interestingly, Nkaigwa’s words are echoed by one GIPS student studying Advanced Diploma in Diesel Plant Engineering who will be graduating in only seven months. The student says that during his industrial attachment programme with a marquee Gaborone company, he couldn’t perform certain basic mechanical tasks (like timing an injector) that he should have learned at school before being sent out on attachment. Asked if he thinks he would be job-ready when he graduates, the student gave a simple if distressing answer: “No.” On the other hand, the school strenuously denies the general claim by engineering students at the Phakalane campus that they don’t do practicals. As evidence that the school offers quality education, its representatives point out that BQA has accredited all its programmes.

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