July 2010

The Department of Political Science, with the assistance of the Division of International Studies & Programs at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK), is pleased to introduce its Botswana Program - a unique joint partnership between TAMUK and the University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana.

The Program is being directed by Dr. Nirmal Goswami, Professor of Political Science, TAMUK, and co-directed by Dr. Leapetswe Malete and Dr. Maitseo Bolaane, University of Botswana.

The Program will include twelve students traveling to and staying in Botswana from July 7th through July 23rd, attending classes at the University of Botswana, and visiting multiple sites through field trips within Botswana. Areas of focus include history, politics, economics, culture, health, environmental policies, etc., with reference to both Botswana and Southern Africa.

This blog will document our experience. You are welcome to post comments.

You are all invited to cyber travel with us as we learn about the unique and beautiful country of Botswana!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Botswana Past, Present and Future: UB Faculty Share Their Expertise and Enthusiasm Through Lectures

On July 12 and 13, TAMUK students had the opportunity to attend lectures with University of Botswana faculty Dr. Wazha Morapedi of the History Department, Dr. Maitseo Bolaane and Mr. Leema Hiri of the Research Center on San Studies, and Dr. Ndana of the English Language/Literature Department.
Dr. Morapedi’s lecture, “An Overview of Botswana History and the Kgotla system,” took us on a breathtaking historical journey that spanned more than 600 years. His story began with the migration of the Central African Bantu-speaking people into the region after 1200 A.D. and the subsequent displacement of the indigenous people now known as the Basarwa/San; Dr. Morapedi then described the shared ancestral origins of the Tswana speaking tribes of Botswana, the democratic tendencies of their kgotla system of local administration, and the agricultural basis of pre-colonial society, emphasizing the centrality of cattle husbandry to the nation’s traditional economy, society and culture. He then described the Mefcane upheavals caused by the expansionist ambitions of King Shaka (of the Zulu nation in today’s South African Transvaal), as well as the impact of British missionaries and European trade on Batswana tribes during the 19th century, before explaining the process by which the region became a British Protectorate in 1885. Dr. Morapedi continued by telling us the story of Botswana’s complex relationship with South Africa, Batswana participation in World War II, and the independence process which culminated with Sir Seretse Khama’s election as the nation’s first president in 1966. We concluded with a brief discussion of the nation’s development since then, including the discovery of diamonds in 1968 and the massive investment in national infrastructure that has allowed what the United Nations once classified as one of the world’s poorest countries to blossom into a politically stable, middle income nation whose university attracts students from many African nations as well as hosting European and North American students and researchers.
Dr. Bolaane and Mr. Hiri’s talk introduced us to the work of the University of Botswana’s Research Center for San Studies, a UB center that grew out of more than a decade of collaboration with the University of Tromso in Norway. Building on Dr. Morapedi’s introduction to the origins of Basarwa/San displacement as early as the 1200s, Dr. Bolaane detailed the challenges facing San communities today, including poverty, lack of access to educational and health facilities, and the persistence of social stigmas which prevent their full and equal participation in society. Mr. Hiri described his work in the RCSS Youth Capacity Building program, which identifies promising San youth and provides funding and support for them to pursue tertiary education at colleges and universities in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Both Dr. Bolaane and Mr. Hiri emphasized the importance of education in helping the Basarwa/San community in achieving their goals of self-determination and equality within a Tswana majority nation.
Dr. Ndana’s lecture, “Reteng: The Multicultural Coalition of Botswana,” opened our eyes to the reality of diversity in the nation, challenging the notion that the Batswana are a culturally homogenous people. He began by establishing the linguistic foundations of existence for all peoples, and then spoke about the complexities of language and ethnic identities in Botswana, emphasizing the need for a national language policy that acknowledges all of the 28 to 32 languages currently spoken here. Dr. Ndana then shared with us his work with the nation’s Reteng multicultural coalition, which promotes multicultural research and legal reform, fosters connections with government and NGO allies, and advocates for the preservation of the nation’s linguistic and cultural heritage . Dr. Ndana stressed that multiculturalism, sometimes understood as a divisive force, can also empower and mobilize citizens in the pursuit of shared goals—facilitating economic diversification, enriching education and cultural production, and instilling a feeling of belonging and worth for all Batswana, regardless of their tribal or ethnic origin.
Each of these lectures has deepened our understanding of Botswana’s history, society and culture, and has provided us with new opportunities to reflect upon the parallel challenges we face as citizens of the U.S. and Canada. We thank them for graciously sharing their expertise with us and for infusing us with their enthusiasm, pride and confidence in their nation. We look forward to upcoming lectures that will carry us further in our journey through Botswana’s past, present and future!

Anita B.


  1. You listened well Padawan! May the force be with you.

  2. Thanks for the terrific summary, Anita! The idea od multiculturalism being a unifying force is very appealing. Hope you're learnign a lot and enjoying yourself. Come see us in TX soon!