PALAPYE: Following recent conflict surrounding academic future of first-year students of various local Technical Colleges and their standoff with the Ministry of Employment, Labour and Skills Development (MELSD), Botswana National Front Youth League (BNFYL) president, Velem Heii has accused the ruling party of using students to rig elections.
Heii said the MELSD was aware of the capacity of the colleges, the state of the facilities, the unaccredited courses that were offered to students and the number of lecturers, but still admitted students in higher numbers.
He claimed, “the similar trend happened again before the 2014 general elections.”
“It is not new, the Botswana Democratic Party is using students as pawns to rig elections and after the elections the party then dumps them.
The government has no intentions to develop these students,” the BNFYL president charged.
Heii criticised advances by the Ministry and Palapye Technical College (PATECO) leadership of demanding students to sit for interviews and rapid skills’ courses as a desperate move to dump and return the students home.
“It is rather shocking to hear such stories after roaming the school for 11 months. You can’t be enrolled and later ordered to sit for an interview. We encourage students to stand up and remain resolute, and fight for their rights,” he said.
PATECO was a hive of demonstrations earlier in the week after year-one students were instructed they would sit for an aptitude test on Wednesday that would be used reduce the numbers to fit the carrying capacity of the college.
The criterion to curb the numbers was delivered by Principal Patricia Ani Yezo last week Friday at a gathering held at PATECO’s west campus. Yezo explained that it was a directive from her bosses in the ministry.
She also said of all the enrolled students only those admitted with Junior Certificate (JC) and above would sit for the test. The pass mark would be 50%. Those admitted without meeting the JC requirement and those that fail to make the pass mark would undertake rapid skills’ courses.
Students remained steadfast on their stance that they would not sit for the test; they felt the Ministry had violated their rights.
They demanded that they should be compensated for the time they spent at the College.
On Tuesday they petitioned the College and the
Through their petition, the students demanded that interviews be scrapped and all students enrolled must be allowed to continue with their studies. Amongst others, the petition suggested that programmes be run on batches. Further, each batch spends three months at the College and all the students in waiting should be assured in writing of when they would return to the College to start classes.
Even after they had won the battle not to sit for the test until their grievances were addressed, the students were still enraged by the developments at the college.
Speaking immediately after the school head postponed the test “until further notice,” as the Memo undersigned by the principal read on Wednesday, Kagiso Oraletse said they want it cancelled.
“It should not even be postponed, it must be cancelled altogether. This issue is going to drag on; they have used us for elections and they should refund us the money we wasted all the time that we were here whether we continue or not. It is sad that we are going home for a holiday and there is nothing that we have to show for the whole year that we spent here,” Oraletse who hails from Mmadinare raged.
His counterpart Innocent Maiyana shared similar sentiments. He said since April until September they have been able to attend classes in shifts only for the classes to be stopped when they queried the machinery they should be using.
“Classes were stopped early October and we were promised that our queries would be sorted when the new government takes over, we did not suspect they meant it this way.
We are elders we could have done piece works with the whole time we wasted here,” Maiyana cried.
School Representative Council president Othusitse Kenamile said their demand is that they should be furnished with the response from the Ministry before the school term breaks on December 6.