‘I did not even know the students were staying at my sister’s’ until later’ -Dow
Former Minister of Education, Skills and Development, now Specially Elected Member of Parliament (SEMP) Unity Dow has dismissed allegations of corruption levelled against her as “ bullshit” and “witch hunt’ by her detractors.
“You will receive more of such stories in the coming months. I am not surprised by your call at all,” Dow told The Voice when she was asked about being recently probed for a 2016 incident when she allegedly diverted foreign UB students to her sister’s accommodation facilities instead of housing them on the university campus when she was still a cabinet minister.
The allegation was premised on a report received through a certain Mr Moseki of the DCEC on the memorandum of agreement between Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Education and Skills Development with the Government of Seychelles to sponsor students (teachers) at the University of Botswana.
“The student’s expenses (accommodation, food and others) are paid for by the government of Botswana. Allegedly Dr Unity Dow, Minister of Education and skills development has abused her authority by instructing that the students from Seychells should be accommodated at her sisters lodging facility, ignoring the agreement that they were supposed to be accommodated at UB. The students are now complaining that the accommodation conditions are not conducive,” read the report.
What is on record however is that during her time in the Ministry, Dow had established a programme to train teachers from Seychelles in Botswana and send Batswana teachers abroad to assist Seychelles with their teacher shortage.
According to a Seychelles News Agency, 20 secondary school teachers from Seychelles came to Botswana in 2015 to pursue their Bachelor’s degree in education whilst another 20 teachers from Botswana filled the shortage of teachers in various schools around the Indian Ocean islands.
“All 20 Seychellois teachers embarked on the 2 to 3 -year -programme at the University of Botswana situated in the heart of the Gaborone capital, will be upgrading from a local diploma in secondary teaching to a Bachelor Degree in Education. They will be studying in the domains of social sciences and mathematics. Dow also said that the 20 experienced teachers coming from Botswana to teach in the Seychelles will also benefit by learning of the French language, since Seychelles is a trilingual nation, with French as one its three national languages, next to English and Creole,” media reports in 2015 were quoted.
The students according to the allegation were diverted to Dow’s sister’s accommodation, instead of UB accommodation.
Asked to comment Dow said, “That is bullshit, you can quote me on that.”
Pressed further Dow acknowledged there was a misunderstanding with regards to the students’ accommodation, but explained what could have happened.
“I didn’t even know they were staying at my sisters place until at a later stage. My sister is into that type of business, she owns all sorts of accommodation facilities and the one you are referring to, is actually close to the UB. It’s a walking distance so that would maybe explain why.”
Further clarifying the matter she said, “Actually their accommodation was not paid for by Government if I remember well.”
However this is not the only corruption allegation that DCEC has leveled against Dow as the Minister. The Ombudsman Report of 2021 has revealed that Dow during her tenure may have overstepped procedure and okayed financial transactions before services were rendered.
Mentioned is the Department of Tertiary and Education Fund (DTEF’s) payment to International Aviation Solution (IAS) for services that never bore fruit for any of the aviation school’s students.
Despite having been given an opportunity by the Ombudsman to comment, the report states that Dow failed to respond.
The ombudsman’s investigations uncovered that DTEF paid full tuition fees to IAS for all the courses the students were to be trained on in advance even though other courses were only to be undertaken after a student has successfully passed the preceding course.
“When DTEF tried to stop the advance payments the then Minister, Dr Unity Dow, instructed DTEF, through the Permanent Secretary, to continue paying IAS in advance,” the report revealed.
In another matter, in 2017 DCEC raided Limkokwing University of Creative Technology offices to investigate a possible conflict of interest after the University sourced legal services from Education Minister, Unity Dow’s law firm.
The DCEC raided the institution in an investigation on issues of possible conflict of interest between the University and Dow, involving a lucrative contract in which the Minister’s law firm was engaged to provide legal services. Investigations into this matter have however been closed by the DCEC.