FRANCISTOWN: More than 100 students who were sponsored by the Botswana Chamber of Mines (BCM) at the Francistown College of Technical and Vocational Education (FCTVE) face a bleak future after their contracts were terminated because of lack of funds.
The students were sponsored by BCM for apprenticeship training tenable at FCTVE on June 20, 2016.
From the start, the students’ contractual relationship with BCM was fraught with problems. According to letters of admission passed to The Monitor, the students were interviewed for apprenticeship training programme in April 2015 but only commenced training more than a year later in June 20, 2016.
“The duration of the apprenticeship training is four years inclusive of three months’ institutional training, three months of competency based modularised training (CBMT) and six months industrial training annually,” reads part of the admission letters.
In addition, BCM entered into a contract with the learners to pay them P3,500 every month as their living allowance and as funds to cover their various needs.
However, disaster struck in November and December 2017 when students received P2,900 and P800 respectively.
The deeply worried students said that when they enquired about the anomaly in January 2018, they were told that BCM was experiencing financial problems.
“We were then sent back home with a promise that we would be called back to continue with our studies once the situation improved.
Most of us went back to our homes since we could no longer afford rentals and other living expenses,” read part of a letter of complaint authored by the students.
Students say that some landlords have confiscated their valuables like laptops, beds amongst others for failure to pay rent.
“We bought some of these valuables with credit since businesses saw that we were credit worthy because of the contract we entered into with BCM. We are now languishing at home doing nothing despite having contracts with BCM,” said one of the distraught students.
The learners added: “We have been idling at home for close to five months since January 2018 but to date there is no sign that the situation will improve any time soon as there is no communication from BCM to that effect.
When we got into a contract with BCM we were under the impression that they were our programmes funders.
We however, learnt without certainty that the programmes were all along sponsored by the Human Resources Development Council (HRDC) though we are not privy to the arrangement between BCM and HRDC”.
The situation has left the students in a quandary.
They are wondering how a sponsor can fund courses for four years then abandon the students when they are halfway through the programmes.
“Halting the sponsorship halfway through
A BCM lecturer at FCTVE also confirmed the students’ predicament.
The lecturer who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals from her superiors narrated that BCM lecturers at FCTVE and Botswana College of Engineering and Technology (BCET) are also facing the same woes.
“In December last year, we were paid a quarter of our salaries. In January 2018 we told the students to go to their homes since our sponsor was embroiled in financial crisis. Two weeks later the chief executive officer of BCM Charles Siwawa came to FCTVE to address us about the problem,” said the lecturer.
The lecturer stated that Siwawa told them that he tried to source some funds from HRDC to solve the problem.
“We are not privy to the deal between BCM and HRDC but what I know is that the HRDC used to fund some of our students who have completed their programmes two years back.
We have been reporting for work without being paid. In March we were paid a quarter of our salaries while the students were given P700,” said the lecturer.
The lecturer added that because there was no end in sight to their problem they then decided to send a delegation to Siwawa on May 8 pleading with him to address their intensifying financial doldrums.
“Siwawa promised to send our pleas to Cabinet for a solution. He said that Cabinet would only address our problem three weeks after it saw our written pleas. We are still waiting for feedback from Siwawa regarding the matter he sent to Cabinet,” said the lecturer.
Just like the students, the lecturer stated that they are also facing problems of servicing loans that they got from various financial institutions and to generally make ends meet.
Asked to comment on the issue, Siwawa curtly said: “Both the students and lecturers know how we are trying to solve the problem. Solving the problem through the media will not help anyone involved in this issue”.