IT hiccups put Botswana varsity in disarray

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

Botswana’s biggest university, the University of Botswana (UB) has been hamstrung by an IT problem that threatens to throw the institution into disarray rendering it not conducive for any learning or research to take place. Sources say gremlins within the integrated enterprise Resource Planning (iERP) at the institution have led to among other things, the delay in the release of the results of the 2014 second semester as well as the supplementary examinations.

This unfortunate technical problem comes at a time when students have just begun their second semester.   

All through the campus, students were seen battling to access their results, classes resumed at the University on Monday with the IT issue causing pandemonium amongst desperate students. In addition, most students were also unable to sign up for courses as the self-registration system within the iERP malfunctioned.

Both learners and staff members said the software platform had been plagued by glitches for a while now and there was no sign of help coming in the immediate space.

According to students, the iERP could not reflect their semester end results as it had been designed to do, and because of this a number of students were not apprised of their grades over the festive holidays.

“The system is very flawed. I could not access my results since most of them were not reflective as we were promised,” said one student.

There was a rallying call from all the affected persons for the University to invest in a more user-friendly IT system and discard the ‘archaic’ one.

“The system is always down. It’s not efficient especially considering that it’s a system,” lamented one third year Humanities student.

One senior lecturer explained that the system had a tendency of blocking students from re-accessing the UB, especially those learners who had been discontinued after dismal performances.

“It’s a headache for such students to self-register as well as to be re-admitted into the system as we end up doing so through the old mechanism.

This new system constantly needs to be unblocked by the IT department, and this has slowed the registration process,” he said.

However, the UB director of Public Affairs, Mhitshane Reetsang, was reluctant to reveal the full extent of the setback caused by the glitch, but gave a piecemeal acknowledgement of the problems surrounding the system.

“We are aware of the challenges. We have been experiencing pockets of problems here and there with the system,” she said.

“The IT department is working around the clock to contain and rectify these shortcomings.” She added that a decision was taken to postpone supplementary exams from last week as there were few students sitting for them.

Reetsang admitted that late registration would mean that students and lecturers work extra hours to compensate for the lost time, but “that would not impact badly on the academic calendar”.

“I don’t think it is going to badly disrupt the whole calendar,” she said.

The self-registration web-based system was launched last August after prolonged calls from stakeholders for the country’s oldest university to embrace new technology.

Ironically, the same troubled technology was expected to end the long queues that have traditionally defined UB registration days.

“We are yet to see the benefits of this system if at all is worth writing home about,” said one staff member at the institution.

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