The notion that trade unions have no place in Policy Formulation, which has led to most institutional leaders shunning the involvement of employees in organizational change processes, could soon be a thing of the past.
That is if the Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU)’s set objective to convert that mind-set should materialize.
‘’It is in this respect that the union is scheduled to host a high profile two day annual conference next week starting the 6th to 7th November 2009,’ said Geoffrey Matswa, TAWU’s Secretary for Publicity and Labour Education.
The conference will be held under the theme: ‘’The Role of Skills development and Research in advancing national human resource development: challenges and opportunities for policy reform, sector growth and employee participation”.
Conference presentations and discussions are thus intended to revolve around feasibility and strategic significance of a number of ongoing policy reforms in the tertiary and vocational education sector.
These include Tertiary Education Policy and the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS), the merging and transformation of certain public institutions into affiliated or integrated entities.
The emergence of private universities and colleges, the expansion of the University of Botswana and the building of the new International University of Science and Technology are some of the issues targeted for the intellectual discourse that the conference is set to facilitate.
More importantly, according to Matswa, the role of tertiary and vocational education in enhancing economic diversification and guaranteeing room for the participation of employees (trade unions) in the process is expected to be explored.
“TAWU has committed to assert its space in the shaping of policy and governance by engaging in extensive research on matters that appertain to the sector,” the Union Spokesperson told the Sunday Standard
One of the ways of doing that would be by creating the required level of awareness on the stakeholders and showing the importance of involving employees, in this case Lecturers, in the formulation of policy.
The present situation, for instance, where Government relies more on consultants than Local experts in the form of college and university lecturers has been cited as a cause for concern.
“For instance, many lecturers in a number of Vocational Institutions are concerned about the way the Botswana Technical Education Program, otherwise known as BTEP is run, structured and its quality as well as related issues”, said one UB Lecturer who asked not to be mentioned by name.
Trouble is, in spite of the challenges that keep emerging from the sector, authorities seem to prefer to keep policy development their “sacred” domain.
As part of tackling the problem of employees’ exclusion from the change processes relating to crucial issues like development of policy, TAWU said that, they have decided to carry it along with importance of elevating the standards.
“That is, we are not going to go to the traditional industrial relations approach of beating the populist drum”, said the Unions Publicity Official.
Matswa further pointed out that the stakes are very high and many lives depended, as much as the future of the economy on the output of their membership, as knowledge providers and producers of the “expertise”.
The conference which will be officiated by the United Nations Resident Coordinator is also expected to offer a high level platform for debate on the sustainability of the present policy frameworks.
Issues such as the tilting of scales to the private education Institutions on the sole basis that the private sector must be developed seem set to be placed into their proper perspective.