Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA) will remain closed until further notice, following a violent strike, which ended on Monday at the college. The Acting Principal of the college, Dr. Mataba Tapela told the media in a press briefing on Tuesday that they had no other alternative other than to close the college.
“As the college management, we had a joint communication with SRC since the beginning of the strike until on Monday when we were shocked by the demonstration which took place without our previous feedback to them”, said Dr. Tapela. He explained that the demonstration that included breaking of windows, burning of tyres as well as blocking the management and the employees from entering the school premises led to the closing of the college. Fearing for their safety the employees called the police to manage the situation with immediate effect.
“This ended up rendering the college ungovernable”, he said. However, Dr. Tapela noted that they are still in negotiations with the Department of Tertiary Education Financing (DTEF) to meet the students’ wishes. He stated that in the meantime they were given four alternatives to choose from, which all could not appease the students’ desires. The first option was for the students to eat from the refectory up to the end of the semester, and get their cash for meals in January next year. Students fully rejected it, noting that they do not want the company serving them to continue working with them anymore, as it does not meet their expected standards.
In the second option, DTEF wished to pay directly to the students’ accounts. However, the challenge became that the process was going to take time and therefore affect the proceedings of the semester as the students would be compelled to eat outside. The third option was for the students to choose between having their meals or not, or perhaps finding other alternatives to eat while DTEF prepares cheques for them. This option was also divisive for students as it would have been a main barrier to on campus students. The final option was for the students to allow the college to close and for DTEF to stop issuing their allowances until funds were available to meet their requests. Just like the rest of the options, it failed because students were going to miss out on their studies.
Asked about how the situation is going to affect the students’ academia, Dr. Tapela promised that the students are still going to write their continuous assessment tests and they will address the situation and find ways to get money and open the college at the soonest. “We have the students’ numbers and we will call them to come back to school as soon as the situation has been rectified”, he said. On the other hand, Dr. Tapela refuted allegations raised by students, that at times students do not seek further explanation from the management. He denied that the college is benchmarking in North America and the UK as well as other different continents without the involvement of the students.
“We cannot all go there, but we have academic representatives among the team that went for benchmarking,” clarified Dr. Tapela. He also rebutted allegations that his college does not produce graduates that are ripe enough for the market. To the contrary, he said that BCA is run by people holding higher qualifications. “The market is saturated and demands a lot but this is not a guarantee that our trainees are not capable. Some of our students are placed in mines and Water corporations. That indicates the potential in our students”, he said adding that they keep the industry informed.