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“School from hell”

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Upon arrival in Molepolole, one is greeted by the fancy looking Blue Bows English Medium School. The outward façade gives the impression that this is an international school of repute, but for the employees, Blue Bows School is a walking nightmare. Undoubtedly, it is this perfect view that captures the attention of many when passing by the tarred road. The school has neatly-cut trees and well-painted tall buildings, no litter can be spotted around the school and the well-swept pavement going all the way to classrooms compliments the serene environment.

Yet teachers here are extremely unhappy and disgruntled. They cry of being exploited and abused daily by the school owners, Loveleen Nanuan and her mother Balbir, both of Indian origin.  Qualified secondary teachers say they are paid low salaries, with the highest paid employee said to be earning as little as P5 000 with no allowances or any benefits. The Midweek Sun is in possession of leaked confidential pay slips and bank statements that prove that a school headmaster can be paid below P5 000. This publication is also in possession of contracts between the employer and some of the teachers.

A holder of Bachelor of Science or Diploma in Physics or Mathematics earns below P4 000 at Blue Bows School. Some were even authorised by the government to teach. As evidence, they presented official letters signed by the late Director of Basic Education Lesego Morake. As if that is not enough, the teachers said that they are expected to teach all classes ranging from Pre-school, Primary, Junior and Secondary level. They are frustrated in that the school management has turned a blind eye to their cries and actually forces them to teach classes which they are not qualified for. They are even questioning the legal standing of the Pre-School. They allege that it is operating illegally. “At one point we were instructed to hide all Pre-School children during the Council inspection,” they revealed. The Kweneng District Council could not verify if the Pre-School is registered or not.

The Acting Council spokesperson Matlhogonolo Moremedi said they need a week or so to confirm the information by carrying out another inspection. The Midweek Sun team managed to get hold of several former Blue Bows teachers. They all described the school as a ‘living hell.’ “Anybody who did not obey instructions was scolded. Everyone who is there is expected to cover up for the school,” they claimed. “We did all the work, some of us were overqualified to be teaching certain classes but we were scared of getting on the wrong side of the school owner. They are not very friendly; some of us were sometimes instructed to sweep classrooms and clean toilets,” lamented one teacher. 

Asked why they never complained while living under such dreadful situations, they said, “We are hungry, the world is rough out there, we had to suffer hoping for a better tomorrow, we consoled ourselves that it was better than starving to death or sleeping on an empty stomach.” Further, they say they were forced to fake smiles and pretend all is well because they have families to feed. The high unemployment rate also forced them to swallow up the unpleasant working conditions and burn silently. Nanuan is said to be an abusive boss; she is said to have assaulted some of her employees at one point. A reliable insider revealed that she once slapped one teacher at the school and pushed the other off a chair. This publication spoke to the teachers who claim to have been assaulted by Nanuan in the past and they all confirmed that indeed they suffered abuse at the hands of Nanuan.

They are still waiting for action to be taken against her by the police. The case was reported at Molepolole Police Station but to this day, it is still pending. The Police could not confirm or deny if they have received such a case before going to print.   The school is also said to be operating without electricity and a solar system is used to power the computer lab. There is no water in the school and no working drainage either, despite using flushing toilets. In a recent phone conversation, Nanuan promised to give feedback on the allegations laid before her.

However, she never did only for her to rudely dismiss The Midweek Sun team during a visit to her hardware shop in Molepolole. She questioned why this publication was invading her personal space and led the team to a secluded place within the compound. She then revealed that she is not interested in commenting on the matter and will only comment after reading the published article. She said if teachers had a problem with her school, they should complain directly to her and not the media. During a visit to the school, students at the school revealed that there is always an overpowering stench coming from the toilets around lunch time. “There is no water and those toilets are not working but we just use them because we have no other option,” they said. They also lamented that they often find it hard to have their meals because they will be too disgusted to eat.

They complained of the unpalatable food being served there, “There is no balanced diet, we eat like beggars, today we were served spaghetti and soup for lunch and there is only one chef here cooking for the whole school,” they said. The newly-appointed headmaster of the school Thomas Tau feared for dear life and refused to comment on the pressing issues. Upon arrival at the school, this reporter found Nanuan in deep conversation with Tau. It soon became evident that she was briefing him about all the noise surrounding the school. She refused to give Tau room to speak, who later resorted to say, “I do not think I can speak anything about the school, I have one week here and I think she is better positioned to take your questions.” It was still at the school that this publication learnt that there might be unqualified teachers at Blue Bows.

Some teachers openly revealed that a student who finished schooling last year at Blue Bows School was this week introduced as a French teacher. The said individual is said to have failed all subjects but got an A in French. She is now a French teacher with the school and students admitted to have seen her being introduced as their teacher. She is alleged to be a teacher to all levels, from Primary to Secondary level. The school is said to have a total of about 100 children. Meanwhile, parents pour thousands of pula into the school per term. School fees range from approximately P3 000 Pre School, Primary P4 000 and P5 000 for Secondary level. One parent who had come to pick up their children at the school confirmed the school fees.

Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) spokesperson Edwin Maitshoko said the issue of low salaries in private institutions is of great concern to them. “Normally foreigners are the ones who are highly exploited, the market is not lucrative and forces some teachers to settle for anything that can help put bread on the table,” Maitshoko said. He added that in other instances private schools hire unqualified personnel hence the low pay. He however assured that that they are working on a passing a teaching council Bill. He said they have already been in negotiations throughout the country and have also informed the employer (government).

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BATTLE FOR MMADIKOLO

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University of Botswana students are bracing themselves for the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections. Contenders are fighting tooth and nail to appease the electorate. Three camps are in contention to fill the 13 council positions.

Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) Moono-wa-Baithuti has the onerous task of defending all the 13 seats which they hauled at the last elections of 2018. “As Moono wa Baithuti, we have lots of achievements. We are on the verge of getting the student bar open, so we need to go back and fix what we started,” said UDC’s Tumelo Legase who is vying for the position of Vice President.

He said they have advocated for student empowerment policies and are also proposing a third arm of student representation. “We have the SRC and the Judiciary, what we need is the student Parliament so that we have a large number of leaders who can independently attend to problems across the university.” The dark horse in this race is the University of Botswana’s Alliance for Progressive (AP) which will take another leap of faith despite their loss in the previous election.

They are rejuvenated and redefined. Candidate for Vice President Karabo Bokwe said central to their mandate is making the welfare of the student community a priority. “We want to help eradicate school policies that border on oppression, and through new polices call for initiatives that come with enterprenuership benefits to students.”

AP candidate for Information and Publicity, a first year Criminal Justice student Gracious Selelo said they are more united than other parties even at national level. “We don’t have internal squabbles within our party, we are more focused and can deliver our mandate easily,” she noted.

However the ruling party’s BDP GS-26 will come with all guns blazing after an embarrassing defeat in the previous elections. Preparations have been made and the GS-26 is looking to take the elections by storm.

According to their Presidential Candidate Boniface Seane, they come with the message of hope that addresses the current status quo at the University.“The university is not functioning so we drew three policies that embrace inclusiveness. We want to lead collectively with the students, through the student body meetings which the previous SRCs have failed to do. “We will consult with the students with no discrimination.”

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Healthcare system to improve

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The Health ministry has developed a seven-point programme to guide the country in improving the healthcare system, says Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Rabashemi Madigele.

“The seven priority areas will serve as a roadmap and a guardian angel towards improving the overall healthcare system and increasing access to health care while fighting the burden of disease that confronts us,” said Madigele at Masa Square Hotel on Tuesday.

The focal areas include decentralisation; Universal Health Coverage, Tertiary Care, Strategic leveraging on the Private sector; Supply Chain; Research as well as Staff welfare and accountability.
Point-one of the seven priority areas according to Dr Madigele is about empowering the District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) and transforming them into fully fledged Regional Health Authorities.

“In this case, they will be rationalised from 27 to 18 and have the authority to hire A and B Scales, promote up to C1 and manage micro procurement,” he said. Point two is about improving the quality of healthcare services. “The main causes of mortality and their risk factors in Botswana are Primary Health Care issues,” Dr Madigele said.

He added that “Our efforts for the attainment of Universal Health Coverage should thus focus on: Prevention; Comprehensive screening; Early treatment; and Surveillance at the community.”
This he said, would require revamped grassroots efforts in which adequate numbers of community health workers through partnerships with the non-governmental sector will be deployed as necessary.

According to Dr Madigele, the top five causes of death in Botswana in 2017 were HIV/AIDS, Ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and Diabetes. He said compared to 2007, NCDs among these had increased in burden by an average of 34%. The top five risk factors related to these causes of mortality were unsafe sex; poor diet; high blood pressure; alcohol abuse and tobacco use.

Improving the quality of care, Madigele said will also include the safety and security of patients; attitudes of staff as experienced by patients; time taken in queues either before seeing a health worker or receiving medication and the availability of drugs.

Meanwhile, the health minister revealed that the commissioning of Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) is ongoing with the facility scheduled for opening on April 24th. “This will be a phased approach commencing with some services including paediatric oncology, internal medicine, rheumatology and endocrinology, diagnostic radiology, laboratory services and pharmacy”.

A phased commissioning of SKMTH will reduce overdependence on South Africa for referrals, reduce costs and also institutionalise provision of super specialist services within Botswana.

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