While the government speaks much about Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), Ministry of Education, Research, Science and Technology has no policy in place or budget to sponsor potential drivers of the same.
Minister Douglas Letsholathebe says for the ministry to be able to sponsor students for education beyond undergraduate level, there is need to review policies and improve on collection of loans.
Jerry Golesedi is a frustrated Mechanical Engineering graduate who does not know where to go to get sponsorship to further his studies in the United States of America (USA).
Golesedi has been offered a place and part sponsorship by Keck Graduate Institute to pursue Master of Science in Mechanical Device Engineering. According to his admission letter, he was selected from a highly competitive applicant pool because of “the many fine qualities” in his application.
The institute offered Golesedi a Merit Scholarship at the value of $16,396 (P180, 000) which Golesedi says is just about a quarter of the total tuition fee.
“I went to look for sponsorship from Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF) even though I know they do not sponsor for masters degree and I came out with nothing. I also went to Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) and Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) and they cannot assist me,” he said.
Golesedi said he has also tried his luck with the private sector in the medical industry, but he was yet to yield any results.
He expressed his disappointment stating that he was hoping that with government encouraging Batswana to be innovative, there would be a way he is assisted to bring home skills that would help the country move forward.
Contacted for comment, Letsholathebe said he wishes his ministry could do more, but are constrained by
“It is a very difficult situation because we are talking about Fourth Industrial Revolution, but our policy does not allow us to sponsor so many brilliant minds wishing to further their studies.
BITRI, which is also under my ministry has limited resources and cannot assist. We, however, have to review our policy and find ways to improve,” Letsholathebe said.
He said one of the key areas they would look into is working harder towards collecting loan payments by formerly sponsored citizens.
In 2015, the DTEF finalised talks with the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) to identify former government-sponsored students who had defaulted on paying back their loans.
According to the then DTEF director, Eugene Moyo, the exercise included beneficiaries employed in the private sector and earning taxable salaries.
Former students identified would be sent alerts by BURS, followed by defaulters’ notices from DTEF, he said at the time. The move has, however, not borne results.
“We need to have a proper system in place to link DTEF with BURS so that we can be able to trace (beneficiaries that defaulted) and make collections. Right now we spend over P50 million monthly for student allowances and we need a proper link with BURS to be able to recover monies so that it can be used to sponsor more students,” he said.
The minister added there was need to review how government sponsors students so that those whose parents can support their education do so and relief the government to sponsor only those who cannot afford.