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Students give Minister Ngaka first litmus test

Publishing Date : 14 May, 2018


Botswana National Union of Students (BONU) and tertiary Student Representative Councils’ (SRCs) efforts to lead a peaceful protest to deliver a petition to newly appointed Tertiary Education Minister, Ngaka Ngaka, demanding allowance increment, were thwarted by police this week Wednesday.

Thousands of students had turned up for the march that began at the GSS grounds, but they would never reach Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology Ministry Headquarters as Botswana Police Services refused to give them leeway. Students allowances are currently P1420 and the union and the SRCs want it increased to P2 000.

BONUS has told this publication that the union had written a letter to minister Ngaka to which a response, acknowledging receipt of the same was sent to the union. The response however did not give clear response regarding the subject matter. “We have written to the Minister asking him to consider increasing the students’ living allowances and indeed the ministry got back to us, acknowledging receipt but with no further details whether our proposal is accepted or not. We expected the minister to respond in an engaging manner but that is not the case,” Secretary of BONUS Tebogo Mmolotsane said.

According to the union, there is need to increase students allowances as students are not able to meet their needs on the current measly P1420, particularly following the hike in public transport fare. In an interview, University of Botswana SRC president Mpho Molokwane said it is very important for SRCs and students from various tertiary institutions to raise awareness and send a message to the new minister who will face stern tests just like other previous ministers on issues pertaining to students’ welfare and living.

Molokwane is of the view that issues affecting students should be tackled accordingly by all stakeholders and therefore the minister needs to take demands presented to his office by student leaders a bit more serious. He further revealed that the plan will be taken further despite efforts by the minister not to consider it a matter of urgency. He added: “This is just the beginning and this will go on until the minister brings something on board, we have worked with the former minister [Madigele] and he resolved every matter we engaged him on in a resolute manner so Ngaka should do as well.”

Quizzed on whether it was not too early to make overwhelming demands on the minister who has just assumed office, one SRC leader said “It is not an issue of being new in office as this matter has been raised long before to other former ministers and what Ngaka should do is to continue with the issue by engaging SRCs as stakeholders. He has taken oath to work and we are not expecting any excuses which have no direction”.

This publication has gathered that minister Ngaka had in fact specified that on the day stipulated for delivery of the petition, his office was not prepared to receive it, as he is still new in office. He also said the matter was still in the hands of the Permanent Secretary and he would only deal with it after it is passed to his office from the PS. For their part, the police indicated that they were only involved to keep order and ensure that things were conducted peacefully and not to necessarily frustrate the students’ efforts to reach the minister’s office.



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