The staunch engineering educator
New Era College of Arts Science and Technology is fast becoming a serious player in tertiary education provision, with particular reference to the engineering profession.
Patriot Business caught up with the ever busy Esfandiar Ghodrati, the Founder and President of the college at his office for a quick chat.
The industrious Ghodrati shared his experiences as a religious pilgrim from Iran, vividly painting his passion and vision for the engineering profession which he once worked in and now facilitates its training.
After fleeing the religiously tumultuous Mashhad region in Iran, presumably the holiest city in Iran, Ghodrati and his family went to Canada, India and a few other countries. They finally landed in Africa and settled in Botswana in 1990.
“We decided to stay in Botswana because it was peaceful and believed it was a life we could be part off,” he said, adding that Botswana offered his family a safe haven where they could practice their religion freely without prejudice from anyone.
Full of life and the occasional banter, Ghodrati smiles at the realisation that there is a long way for the engineering profession in the country. “There is a lot still to be done with regards to infrastructure development in this country such as hospitals, stadia, bridges, high-rises, tunnels, dams and many more that still need to be built,” he said.
His dream is to see local engineers at the forefront of projects such as building rail roads, valleys, highways and buildings.
Being a structural engineer by profession and heading a consultancy in the field, Ghodrati and company identified a gap in the industry. “There were not many structural engineers being trained in Botswana,” he recalled and his journey into education was started. It solely emanated from his belief that knowledge should be shared with those who are less privy and not be taken to the grave.
“We started with primary and secondary education and progressed over the past 10 years to finally being the engineering technology college that we are today,” he said.
Looking to the future, the founder envisions a huge campus by 2025 with over 5000 learners enrolled at the Gaborone campus. The college is also working towards putting up campuses with hostels.
As for the curriculum offered at New Era College, Ghodrati intends to have the college offering qualifications in Mining, Electrical, Telecommunications and Geology Engineering.
Ghodrati, with his greying hair meticulously combed back, makes note of the certification process of the subjects offered at the college.
“It has taken us years to have the kind of establishment we have and it should never be that difficult,” he said. He said the college initially has 11 approved programmes, which they want to increase to offer higher level degree and master degree and possibly PhD qualifications.
He lamented the lack of qualified teaching staff for the engineering classes, noting that there are not many local teachers, professors and lecturers equipped with the skill set to teach. He regretted that the bureaucratic red tape made it difficult for them to get qualified foreign lecturers.
“Now things have eased up and we can get experts to come and give short courses, seminars as well as hold teaching posts at the college,” he said, almost with a sigh of relief. He enthused at the prospect of having locally groomed engineers working in all the countries of the world directly contributing to the nation’s economy.
As for the engineering industry in Botswana, Ghodrati believes he has just scratched the surface. “This is just the beginning and no matter the number of engineers produced, it will never be enough,” he advised.