Botswana Open University (BOU) Chancellor, Professor Sheila Tlou, has called on the leadership of Maun and the North West region to be agents of change and influence their community members to enroll with the university in order to empower themselves with better education.
Tlou who is among the top most influential women in Africa was in Maun last Thursday on a tour of the BOU campus which is the biggest of all BOU campuses in the country.
“The world is changing rapidly and the same goes for knowledge. We cannot afford to be spectators to this growth and success, but rather we should find and seize our niche in the revolution. We need to become partakers in driving the aspirations of our national vision 2036 on the pillar of sustainable economic development and the creation of a knowledge based economy,” Tlou noted.
Speaking at a hosted dinner at the Maun campus, Tlou asserted that even though education is key to the attainment of these human socio-economic values, the retention of students who are enrolled in tertiary programmes at BOU in this region has shown a tremendous decline this year.
“Out of a total of 822 students supported at tertiary level during this past academic year, 629 returned to continue to semester two. Many of the affected students are decrying lack of funds to pay for their tuition as the majority of BOU students are self sponsored,” Tlou explained and added that the students have therefore opted to defer their studies.
“It is evident that our country is faced with an unstable economic outlook given the vulnerabilities, given the trade shocks as well as capital outflows that are accompanied by many risk factors,” she added.
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These factors she said, include the Covid-19 pandemic and the necessary disease containment measures that have had a direct negative impact on the economy.
“The depressed global diamond market and disruption of the tourism and related hospitality industries have not been spared from this tumultuous period in our lifetime,” Tlou further noted.
She did observe that the mainstay of the economy of North-West Region that include Ngamiland and Okavango sub districts has for many years been agriculture and the tourism sector that employs mny of the region’ youth.
With the many job loses that followed COVID-19 outbreak, BOU says this precipitated adverse consequences even for BOU with many students failing to pay fees and with Maun campus seemingly most affected, “Maun region seems to be one of the most affected by the decline in student enrolment numbers, a clear indication that the region is more socio-economically challenged than others.”
Further an ongoing profiling of students is said to have revealed that Maun region students and tutors (33 percent) are adversely affected by the non-availability of personal information technology (IT) gadgets like computers, laptops and tablets, including lack of access to internet connectivity.
This she said affects their ability to effectively study online, leading to less than expected academic performance.
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“These struggles by students and the university call for more robust partnerships with all stakeholders to mitigate the adverse impact.