Mmegi Online :: HRDC developments are akin to harassment
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Thursday 20 September 2018, 12:14 pm.
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HRDC developments are akin to harassment

I fully associate myself with the position of the Student Representative Councils on the topical issue of outsourcing the Education Support Fund and Related Function, which led to the birth of HRDC [Human Resource Development Council] and indeed, the death of TEC [Tertiary Education council] alongside the demise of DTEF.
By Correspondent Thu 13 Nov 2014, 11:43 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: HRDC developments are akin to harassment








I am cognisant of the Presidential directive in 2010 that prescribed that the management of the Education support Fund (ESF) should be outsourced and operated along banking lines. We are also told by those in power that the situational analysis and international benchmarking has been done. I have read and noted with utter dismay some unpalatable developments emerging from the MoESD, DTEF to be specific-shocking developments that have a serious bearing on student formal education, their loans and welfare. Such a myriad of vicissitudes or rather developments as already aptly narrated by SRCs includes among others;

The Student loan being payable within six months after the students have graduated. Within this horror, comes with it, something that is obviously anathema to many of us which is-the parents assets will be attached to act as security so that the council can be reimbursed the money, according to local media.

 These developments resemble and signal danger. I join the student community to reject the envisaged and purported developments. I reject them vehemently. My position is that HRDC, and indeed the government, wants to introduce something ‘unholy’ and does it in a highly clandestine manner. I argue that what the government patently seeks to do by attaching the parents’ assets to act as security of the student loan, is a hideous and mischievous attempt to introduce cost-sharing, or to be more precise, school/tuition fees without necessarily and actively saying it. This can’t be allowed. I contend that before HRDC can think and talk of their sugar-coated cost-sharing, or rather school fees; they ought to bargain with the working class (parents) and convince the government to pay them ‘fat salaries’ that can afford such a task. Parents in Botswana are paid paltry salaries which when juxtaposed with the cost of living cannot and can never sustain such a fee that runs into hundreds of thousands of Pula.

This move is a deliberate intention to impoverish the already enfeebled and struggling parents-many who are financially embarrassed and bankrupt, with recessed accounts. HRDC might as well be addressing the symptoms of the disease not the cause. The starting point is to raise the pay scale (remuneration) and upgrade pay structure. In foreign countries where the purported international bench marking was done e.g. UK and South Africa, where school fees/cost-sharing is practiced and embraced, workers salaries or wages are mouth-watering and therefore a bit enough to afford such a fee.   

There is a need for proper diagnosis of educational crisis that besiege this country and an accurate situational analysis. The problem is not the student loan but maladministration and reluctance by previous beneficiaries to pay back the loan. Why can’t Maedza pay back his student loan? Why can’t Hon. Masisi pay back the student loan? Leadership is all about being exemplary. They must lead by example and pay back our money. Why should we punish current and future students for the mistakes of previous beneficiaries who today, surprisingly have the audacity to instruct others to pay? Do they have good moral standing to do so? There is a pre-requisite for them to begin the journey of student loan reimbursement.  Anyway, it is not that government does not know the above fact (of poorly paid workers). We know that the government knows that she underpays her workers, at worst she despises them. I opine that, the status quo is driven by the capitalistic spirit that has engulfed our leaders today which manifest in the form of a demonic appetite of making profit in whatever manner possible. Many are on a voyage of self-enrichment and aggrandisement. What the government is doing by introducing school fees is a deliberate move to privatise and commercialise education. The decision by MoESD to privatise education, or its commoditisation, is influenced by the neo-liberal International Monetary Fund (IMF) advice to prioritise privatisation. We all know that Capitalism thrives where there is profit-where there are exorbitant prices and taxing, socio-economic disparities at the expense of quality education for all. For example, evidence here in Botswana teaches us that in institutions where education has been commercialised and commoditised, greedy and rapacious owners of such a school have failed to provide and deliver quality education and as such have, as a result produced compromised graduates yet the same persons  (business owners)

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continue to milk our nation of its precious money. Some do not even bother accrediting their courses/programmes leading to bogus certificates.  At the center of this educational conundrum, is money and profit.

We must admit. College and University education has fast become very critical and crucial in contemporary life. The need for free education even at tertiary level needs to be accentuated.  Free education means everybody will get an equal opportunity to pursue higher studies which is independent of their economic background. Free education enables merit to become the sole criterion of admission; put differently, good grades become a primary determinant of selection. Anything lesser or more than that only acts to further divide the society and fortify the socio-economic disparity and the neoliberal hegemony. Moreover, it results in the educational attainment between the rich and the poor to increase significantly-with potentially dire consequences for the future economic mobility of children from less-advantaged families.

It is on this basis that I reject and scold the HRDC decision of introducing school fees secretly. Schools should not legitimise and reproduce inequality because Education, as Education theorists aver, is the social leveller. We must all oppose, any gesture, either directly or indirectly, that divides the society on the basis of economic scales. I am a proponent of free, compulsory and hands-on education-free even at tertiary level. Education is now a basic need. Why privatise and commoditise this basic need? Why?

My second and last point deals with consultation and democratic path or lack thereof which was used to arrive at this unpopular decision and I wish to give a lecture. We hear from the SRCs and by extension students, that the current changes which come with HRDC are not a product of democracy as in proper and comprehensive consultation. The development, we are told, was not borne out of debate and discourse but an off-spring top-down approach by authorities. It is an epitome of non-inclusive governance that sidelines other important stakeholders. Inclusive governance and consensus-building, I must state, are critical concepts in leadership and contractual marriages. The government must be told in no complex terms that, there is nothing for the people without the people. I refer Dr Marcos Maedza to Khumoekae Richard book of ‘The Scandalous Murdering of Democracy’ particularly in Chapter 5, page 59 where he quotes McGrath (1970) who said “The compelling reason for student participation in the affairs of the University (in this case DTEF) rests on the generally accepted political proposition that in a free society all affected by a policy have the right to be involved in the formulation of such a policy even at its inception. Otherwise, the policy stands to be resisted”.  Richard argues in that book that, “The strikes by the student body is a failure on the part of the management/government to live by the philosophy which is narrated by Ryan (1976) which postulates that ‘student involvement in college allows for policy decisions to be viewed as more legitimate by the student body resulting in the institution avoiding coming across as paternalistic’. Richard continues to buttress his point charging that, “This, according to Bukaliya and Rupande (2012) eventually leads to improved quality of educational decisions and policies, diminished student dissent and unrest”. We all know that the rise of Khama to the Presidency has heralded an era of democratic decay and educational crisis.  HRDC must do the honourable thing, which is to abolish their decision and embark on  a comprehensive, inclusive and democratic consultation process to avert student unrest and uprising which will sack the nation into yet another catastrophe. I view these developments by HRDC as naked harassment of students and their education. We have had enough of educational crisises; we cannot afford to have more. But if Mohammed cannot follow the mountain, then the mountain shall follow Mohammed. Rejection of debate and engagement by authorities will mean one thing: the strike is the only language capitalists understand. We pray that the powers that be find wisdom, peace and comfort in this advice. Power to the people-for the voice of the people is the voice of God. Vox populai, vox dai! Long live student power long live!!! God bless you.

KHUMOEKAE RICHARD *

* Richard is the author of “The Scandalous murdering of Democracy”.

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