15 February 2005

Botswana: Debswana's Scholarships to Be Reviewed

The Minister for Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Charles Tibone told Parliament on Monday that the government would hold a joint review on Debswana's scholarship policy.

He said his ministry, together with the management of Debswana will do the review. Debswana Diamond Company is a 50-50 joint partnership between De Beers and the government.

The intended review is precipitated by the confusion and disruptions that arose after Debswana terminated scholarships for students whose parents engaged in an illegal strike last year.

"I have been concerned about the likely disruptive effects of this policy to the education of a student who would have obtained a scholarship on merit. Accordingly, my ministry is exploring with the Debswana management options which would minimise or eliminate disruption in future," said Tibone who was answering a question from the Boteti North MP, Slumber Tsogwane. The MP wanted to know conditions under which Debswana scholarships are awarded to Batswana students and whether the withdrawal of sponsorship on the basis that parents of such students who happen to be Debswana employees, are involved in an illegal industrial action is procedural.

The minister said the company runs two scholarship programmes. It offers general scholarships to citizen students to pursue tertiary education locally or abroad. Tibone said these scholarships were not affected by the strike. "No recipient, if they happen to have parents employed by Debswana, has lost this scholarship as a result of his or her parent resigning or being dismissed," he explained.

The second type of scholarship is open to 12 top performing students whose parents are citizens and have been in the employ of the company for at least two years. This is the programme where scholarships were withdrawn over the strike saga. "This scholarship is an employment benefit and allocated as such," he stressed.

He added that the scholarship only remains valid for as long as the parent of the sponsored student remains an employee of Debswana.

"This condition is detailed in a letter to the relevant employee confirming the award of a scholarship to their child. Therefore the scholarship forms part of the conditions of service of that employee and is terminated upon dismissal or resignation of the employee," he said.a

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