Saturday, May 15, 2021

University students reject banning of politics on campus

The President of the University of Botswana students committee, Mishingo Jeremia, says he rejects decision mulled by campus authorities to ban political activity by both students and staff.

Jeremia says the SRC (Student Representative Council) as the legal organ representing students has not been consulted on the mooted policy.
Recently the University of Botswana Management released details of a policy that would lead to the banning of all political activity at the college.
It will affect students and their professors alike.
In recent years, the University of Botswana has become a hotbed of political participation political parties using it to win or lose the Gaborone Central constituency because of the high density of voters therein.

University of Botswana is home to about 12 000 students, not to speak of the academic and non-academic staff.
“It is an elementary rule and practice that if a change is to be introduced, which change has an adverse effect on people, there must not only be consultation with the people but also a consequent consideration of their views,” said Jeremia in a statement.
He went further to say the authorities made a big mistake by coming to a decision that would necessarily affect students without seeking the input of students.

“The students have not at any stage been engaged. I must say that I learnt of same through the grape vine, and subsequently confirmed. If this is a cake, then the icing is the fact that even after the draft policy was released, the SRC and the students were not given a copy, or even the formal opportunity to react to same, yet the document has been out for over a month. On this basis, we argue that we are justified in not only rejecting the draft policy, but also requesting it to be discarded,” says Jeremia.

He says, if approved, the policy would completely change the political landscape at the University of Botswana.
It will be students who will be most affected, he contends.

It is not yet clear what prompted the University to go this route.
Under the policy representatives of political parties will be prohibited to be involved in student politics. Further, the policy provides that no political party meeting or any political activity may be held at UB.

“Through this policy, the University of Botswana Management would not only kill freedom of expression and association, but will literally attempt to turn the SRC (The Student Representatives) into prefects. In all its 25 years of existence, there have been political parties on campus. Political competition in the University of Botswana has ensured that students always have the liberty to choose a regime of their choice with the assistance of the candidates’ political identity. The system has also provided for checks and balances on the exercise of power,” thinks Jeremia.

He says it is exactly because of a vibrant political environment at the university over the years that the campus has groomed a good number of its former students who went on to become great statesmen and great politicians.
“Denying the University of Botswana students a chance to actively take part in politics is discouraging personal development and growth for many students, while simultaneously denying students the benefits of a political system.”

In a strongly worded statement, Jeremia says university authorities must remember that the University of Botswana is not a private institution.

“It is also not a high school. I, for one, am certainly not a head boy. Perhaps in the next draft policy we will be asked to wear uniforms,” he said.


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