Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The UB gods must be crazy!

A few years ago the Sunday Standard newspaper used to run a column under the name Loose Canon. It was all about satirical reflection on human behavior and demeanor. I recall in one of his many hilarious, yet thought-provoking pieces, Loose Canon suggested University of Botswana (UB) students must be made to wear school uniform, just like their juniors at primary and secondary schools. He made a case for it. We laughed at his suggestion. We laughed because we knew he was just thinking aloud in jest and didn’t really intend for his idea to be taken hook, line and sinker.

Well, it now appears the people mandated with running our national university are destined to implement Loose Canon’s ideas. Loose Canon had made a lot of recommendations that included among others, the introduction of the morning assembly at UB, corporal punishment and other restrictions that have for a long time been confined to secondary and primary schools. Little did Loose Canon know or even imagine that the era will come when the university would be led by people who are still stuck with that secondary and primary school management mentality. Loose Canon made us laugh because he thought his suggestions only existed in the comical world and that no sane university leadership could ever implement them. Wherever he is, Loose Canon must be now dead with laughter seeing how his jokes have been taken so seriously by the UB leadership.

Look, I have serious problems with leaders who always want to prove they are in control even where unnecessary. We must admit however, that ever since President Khama took over, most of these political appointments have been made based on affiliation, association and acquaintance to his person. Merit and qualification no longer guarantee placement in government institutions. The harder you lick the president’s boot the higher your chances of climbing up the echelons of power. For this reason, many of these political appointees throw away their acquired experience, acumen and even common sense in an effort to please their master. Even people who have stayed longer at school or lived long enough to know the dynamics of life would argue that the sun doesn’t rise from the east if that is the opinion held by Khama. To them, what Khama says must be taken as the gospel truth. To them, what Khama wants Khama must get. In some instances they even do the things that I doubt have the blessings of Khama.

They do everything that in their perceived view is likely to make Khama happy. A lot of noise was made when President Khama roped in Parks Tafa and some of his family members into the UB council. Many people feared that these people owed allegiance to Khama and were bound to run the university not according to how best a university must be run but according to how it may so please Khama. They have not disappointed. They came in just ‘yesterday’ but they have already made changes that outnumber all the changes ever made at the university since its inception in 1982. Parks Tafa is the UB council chairman and a close associate of Khama and BDP. In fact, it is said that whenever Khama wants to implement an unpopular decision, his first port of call is Tafa and once Tafa informs him that he is legally covered to do as he wishes, Khama never hesitates to act. It is an obvious fact that before he appointed Tafa to lead the UB council, Khama briefed him on his expectations. He must have told him how he wants the university to be run. Tafa came in and closed the university bar, which existed during his time as a student there.

This, without doubt, must have been a directive from Khama who has not made his abhorrence for alcohol a secret. Some of us were shocked that a man of Tafa’s caliber, who has spent extra years in school than Khama, could fail to knock some sense into him on why the university needed to have an on-campus liquor restaurant. It is a known secret that Khama has never been through the doors of a conventional university and as such he is not well versed with the operations and lifestyles of a university community. One would have therefore expected Tafa to offer him some orientation, having been there and done it before. Now when we are still reeling in shock over the closure of the university pub, Tafa has come up with another shocker. He has banned political activism in the university. The UB gods must be crazy I tell you. Look, the university is made up of adults and not kindergarten kids. Except for a few exceptional cases, the normal age of first year students at university is 19. There is no age limit for enrollment at the university and as such even elderly people that are old enough to be Tafa’s grandparents are permitted to attend university.

Like I mentioned, because the university is attended by mature people, the expectation is that they know why they are there. The expectation is that they know what choices to make and that is why the university bar has always existed alongside the university libraries and still, people like Tafa managed to graduate and become the people they are today. University students are legible voters and it beats me how someone like Tafa, who is a politician, groomed by UB politics, can now turn around and suggest it is wrong to engage in politics while at university. There are plenty of high caliber politicians, leaders and businessmen, including Tafa who owe their foundation to university politics and I therefore find it hypocritical of Tafa and his council to deny UB students the same platform that helped mould them into reputable people in the society. How do you stop people who are old enough to get pregnant and get married from drinking alcohol and engaging in politics during their break from school work?

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