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Employees decry secrecy in transformation of vocational institutions

Colleges of education and vocational institutions are embittered by lack of transparency and consultation in the ongoing institutional transformation process.

Already, the process has seen closure of Francistown College of Education, which has since transitioned to serve double purposes of in-service training centre and as well as being the northern campus for Open Distance Learning University (BOCODOL).

Matthews Sengwaketse, a lecturer at Molepolole College of Education told assistant minister of education and skills development, Fidelis Molao this week that the exercise was marred with secrecy. 

As a result, he complained that vagueness was prevalent in these institutions. Segwaketse was speaking during a consultative meeting with the Molao and sub-regional education managers in Molepolole on Tuesday.

“We are worried by lack of transparency and communication in the undergoing transformation of colleges process. Enrolment has drastically reduced, and there is uncertainty in our institutions,” he said.

“Are colleges of education closing or not? Staff morale has been badly affected because we do not know which one is next,” said Sengwaketse.

He added that lecturers as implementers and critical stakeholders were not involved. Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) secretary general, Setso Ntsuke reiterated the same. The labour movement recruits within the tertiary education, vocational training, research and allied sectors.

Ntsuke told Mmegi that whatever consultation the education ministry allege to have done was suppressive of employees’ rights.

“The consultation is done according to the employer, and the labour movement’s role in such developments is not taken into consideration hence the employer suppresses the interests of employees,” Ntsuke said. He said even if the intent was to upgrade education, implementation was flawed in the sense that staff morale has been dampened. Ntsuke added that even if affected employees were to be absorbed in other departments of the public sector, performance was bound to be affected by lack of settling workers’ previous concerns.

TAWU maintained that consultation was improper, adding that decisions were taken looking at the immediate interests of a few not on moral duty.  “We are very much concerned

with this transformation because it looks like decisions are taken at a high level to benefit those in the system and their allies,” he said.

This week, those affected by the transformation of the former FCE wrote to TAWU proposing a meeting next Friday to discuss the effects and implications of the transition to education and employees’ welfare.

Education authorities have said the process, as informed by the five-year Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP), whose implementation kicked off last year until 2020, is meant to transformation and rationalisation of tertiary education at both programme and institutional level. In a telephone interview with Mmegi, Molao countered as untruth complaints that the processes lacked transparency and consultation. 

“It is an ongoing process, and employees and their representatives are saying they were not involved because there are fears people might lose jobs not necessarily looking at the bigger picture,” said Molao.

“No process can be undertaken without consulting all affected parties. This transformation was informed by the ETSSP whose development they were involved in,” he continued.

Molao said the impetus was to arrest duplications of programmes in these institutions, as the fragmentation did not make economic sense.

“Instead of having different colleges and brigades across the country offering the same programmes with enrolments as low as 200, we are going towards bringing programmes under one roof to have for instance a student population of 800 and close down others,” he explained.

He stressed the need for rationalising delivering of public education, which would ultimately result in optimal resource deployment.

Responding to concerns that this makeover would benefit business interests at the expense of social good, Molao said he could not go into details on how private players would occupy utilised infrastructure in public institutions, as the process was ongoing. “But obviously anyone whether public or private cannot be given space at no cost,” he said.


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