As Batswana students in the diaspora studying for post graduate certificates in Pretoria, we met and discussed the new kid in the bloc- the Graduate Volunteer Scheme.
The feeling and reaction to the scheme was unanimous, we were all equally disturbed by the apparent bleak future that is looming in our beloved country especially in the education sector and youth employment issues. I then took a decision to make my views and that of my peers’ public, for I cannot be a prisoner of my conscience.
At first the BDP government enslaved our brothers and sisters with a plethora of exploitative initiatives such as Ipelegeng, Internship program and now it has gone for the jugular with the introduction of the so-called Graduate Volunteer Scheme. Given the nature and character of the BDP- a neo-liberal proponent, there was nothing shocking about this announcement.
This initiative vindicates those who argued that the current regime has a poverty of ideas on how to rescue the country and youth from the abyss of poverty and unemployment. The government has clearly demonstrated that it is fatigued and clueless in addressing topical national issues. These initiative and the aspirations of the youth of Botswana are at cross-purpose. The BDP government has relegated the value of its youth to vagabonds who do not deserve a slice of the national wealth of the country.
Given the economic status of the country, it defeats logic why the government has opted to such an exploitative and hilarious program. It is unacceptable for the government to churn out youth programs every year, without first assessing the feasibility and impact the youth policies already available. Is the new scheme an indication that the Internship program has failed? With all due respect, the government has mistaken the graduates of Botswana with a pit latrine. Well, the government must be told that we are not a pit latrine where one answers the call of nature and does not have to look back and flush.
The very least we deserve is respect, not to be made a laughing stock. This initiative does not inspire confidence in the youth to pursue University studies. Under the current regime, a university graduate is no different to a fellow who chose to abandon school at break time in primary school.
In fact, the fellow who never went to a University might be better off than a graduate because he has not wasted his time learning concepts and writing exams at UB. I cannot come to peace with the fact that among the members of the Executive there are well schooled individuals who understand educational issues more than we can say about our sorry President. What is their value if they can allow government to be reckless with our futures?
The BDP government must also be chastised for its top-down approach in matters that affect the youth. It is clear that there has not been consultation with the graduates or civil society. One will expect that any self-respecting government will engage with SRC’s, BNYC, opposition parties, NGO’s in the formulation of education policies and youth initiatives. The least was for government to subject such an initiative to a parliamentary debate to ensure input from across the political divide. But one is tempted is ask, who are the beneficiaries of this initiative? This initiative is another cobweb of a failing system to make a façade that the BDP government has the interests of the graduates at heart.
I will be eager to see if daughters and sons of ministers and top government officials will utilise this initiative. My wild guess is that such initiatives are meant only for the daughters and sons of the poor, peasants and the working class. The BDP government lack the political will and ideas to address the problems facing a graduate. This initiative is useless, uninformed and exploitative.
The Graduate Volunteer Scheme is an insult to academia, graduates and the entire nation. I personally demand a public apology and retraction of this initiative. Youth unemployment is a ticking time bomb for Botswana and soon the bomb will detonate! The BDP government will be the major casualty as the youth and graduates of Botswana will topple the BDP, democratically or otherwise to restore a government that values the youth, graduates and children of the poor and peasants.
I repeat, as an unemployed graduate of Botswana, I demand a public apology from Dr. Dow and a retraction of the useless, degrading and exploitative Graduate Volunteer Scheme. We want decent and permanent jobs to take care of our parents; if we want to volunteer we will go straight to the nearest orphanage!
To rub salt in our open wounds are the reckless and irresponsible words attributed to Prof. Emmanuel Botlhale. For some of us who hold him in high regard, we are beginning to question his capacity and expertise to offer academically informed opinions on economic issues.
I must express my disappointment, I had expected much better from the learned professor. If he took his time lecturing students so that they can be abused by BDP policies such as the graduate Volunteer Scheme, then the good professor better consider an early retirement. With his remarks praising the feasibility of the scheme, it becomes obvious that the learned professor has been co-opted into the ruling elites and has abandoned the struggles of his students, unemployed graduates and the community at large.
His analysis of the scheme reminds me of one Nazi-propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels who justified anything and everything that Adolf Hitler deemed proper. A free advice to Prof. Botlhale, please the system and the powers that be with other things, not us! To the contrary, Botlhale should be advising the Government to consider MP Arone’s proposed motion on sponsoring unemployed graduates for a post graduate program. That will add value to the life and resume of a graduate and subsequently increase their chances of employability, not this nonsense called Graduate Volunteer Scheme.