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!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Education in Botswana

In Botswana, education is free for everyone. In the more rural areas, schools can be quite far, but it seems if a family wishes their children to be educated they can. Botswana has a mix of both public and private schools much like the rest of the world. However, both public and private schools require students to wear uniforms. These uniforms are not just the khaki pants and polo shirt that some schools in Texas require students to wear. Students in Botswana wear button down shirts, sweater, tie, trousers (pleated skirts for girls) and hat. We understood this to be a tradition based on British customs. For those students who live too far away from a school, which often includes students from minority groups like the Sans, there is a government program that “boards” the students away from home so that they can receive an education. This was a bit of a shock to me, one because I know the US tried something like this with the Native American population and it did not work out so well for us, and second because I could not stand to be separated from my child. On the other hand, in isolated rural areas, how else can children access education? It might not be the best situation, but at least the Botswana government is trying to do something.
At the university level, if students pass the appropriate tests and have the required grades, their university costs are provided by the government. That means, for about 4-5 years, tuition, books, board, food, and a stipend are paid by the Botswana government. When we went to the American Embassy, they told us that the living allowance for students had been recently reduced and caused many students to protest. Our presenter said, “It’s hard to sympathize with them when US students have thousands of dollars in loans to pay back to our government and banks.” It is a good point but it also means that the United States, with the largest economy in the world, cannot provide sufficient support for most Americans to get college degrees while some countries do.
Another problem one of our presenters discussed involved students from minority groups like the San. Such students, living in isolated communities, do not always have adequate educational opportunities to start with. This makes it harder for them to qualify for university admission. As a response, through a program at the University of Botswana, San students with academic potential are assisted in accessing both university and technical college programs. Many students initially perceived to be “not qualified” for higher education, pursue higher education degrees this way.
The University of Botswana motto, translated, means, “education as a shield.” Botswana has used their diamonds to build the most valuable resource a country can have, an educated majority. They have invested their money wisely. The country’s diamond-based resources could not have been spent on anything better, for when the diamonds run out, the education will still be there.

Katharine K.

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