Botswana Opts to Provide Technical Education at Home

Not long ago, we reported on ambitious plans to expand graduate education in a number of African countries. But Botswana, “the fastest growing country in the world from its birth to the end of the 20th century,” is taking even more ambitious steps, reports Don Boroughs in the American Society for Engineering Education’smagazine. After decades of sending hundreds of its brightest students abroad to study engineering, Botswana will now provide its students with engineering education at home.

Joseph Chuma, the first Botswana native to serve as dean of engineering at the University of Botswana (UB) in Gabarone, calls the decision “bold,” Boroughs writes.  Even bolder is the founding of an entire new university, the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) in Palapye, which began giving classes in 2012 but will begin using its brand-new, $60 million campus next month.   

“We’re all working seven days a week,” says BIUST’s acting Vice Chancellor Steven Howell, who formerly taught engineering at Lawrence Technological University in Detroit, Michigan, quoted in the article. “It’s the most difficult job any of us have ever done.” Giving classes at the same time that the campus is coming into existence is like “flying an airplane while at the same time you are engineering and building the airplane,” he says. 

For a developing country of 2 million people, sustaining the rapid expansion of programs, facilities, and faculties will be a considerable challenge. The government is solidly behind the effort, however, Boroughs writes, and the project is clearly underway: UB will soon award the nation’s first-ever Ph.D. in engineering.

“Twenty years ago we were a very poor country,” the article quotes Chuma. “Now we can achieve more … .”

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