An edu-entrepreneur of note Daisy Molefhi has defied challenges to launch and run a university of international repute – a feat only the daring could match. KEITEBE KGOSIKEBATHO reports.
Daisy Molefhi comes across as a soft and humble person. She exudes the motherly aura that comforts, disarms and lures any troubled soul for a good heart-to-heart time. These traits, it would seem, also contributed to the good leader and businesswoman that she is today. It takes skills to start a business from scratch and turn it into a successful enterprise. One needs to be a good communicator to lead a winning team. Molefhi is a trailblazer who will go down in Botswana’s history as a doer who took it upon herself to contribute to the development of the country’s education in a positive way.
Daisy Molefhi tells a passionate story of how her great grandfather upon returning from the World War II, where he had been inspired and impressed by the weight education and religion carries and their importance in the development of one’s life, immediately wanted all his children to be educated. This decision saw Molefhi’s mother and two of her sisters leaving their home village of Tshesebe to study in the then Rhodesia, modern day Zimbabwe. There they were not only afforded basic education but were exposed to a new whole world where success for a woman did not mean getting a boyfriend who worked in the South African Gold mines and eventually getting married and having babies but it meant one was able to work and make their own money. The tradition did not die with the old man, as Molefhi’s mother also insured that her kids got educated as well. And that’s how Molefhi’s passion for education and her high regard for its importance emanate from. Her personal philosophy is: “Education is not the answer to everything but it definitely does open doors which ignorance cannot”.
She believes education is a strong empowerment, especially for the girl child, who is often disadvantaged and not favoured by the environment and circumstances. It is also through education, according to Molefhi, that she got to learn that one needs not to necessarily be tied to the qualification he/she went to school for. Coming from a family where entrepreneurship is not a risk but a norm, she says, education has always been used not as a security but as a foundation to reaching greater things in life. This, she says, is what she now imparts to her students at ABM University College by ensuring that they embed entrepreneurship and leadership attributes into their studies through innovation and basically making the world their oysters.
Life as an educationist
She is the founder and current Chief Executive officer of ABM University College, one of the oldest private tertiary institutions. A teacher by profession, she says, she only spent two years in this noble profession and left under the influence of her brother, who is also an entrepreneur. She felt she could venture into business and still do what she is passionate about – teaching. Starting ABM College was never an easy endeavour for her. From having to fight off with her founding partner after irreconcilable differences to having to convince government that ABM was not just another ‘fly-by-night’ college, she fought her way through. “Coincidentally just around the same time that we were starting up, there was an upsurge of fly-by-nights colleges offering bogus qualifications so the government and even the private sector was reluctant to recognise our qualifications,” said Molefhi.
Molefhi knew by then that she had to do something to win the government and other stakeholders support. She thus decided to get more involved in the development of the local education sector. She is for example one of the founding members of Botswana Training Authority (BOTA) which is now Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA). This proactive move, she says, meant she had to do a lot of volunteer work at no pay, which included travelling abroad on benchmarking missions.
Her hard work eventually paid off as currently – more than 20 years since its inception – ABM is now fully licensed and recognised both locally and internationally. It offers degree, diploma, certificate and professional qualifications in various fields which Molefhi attests are relevant to the market’s needs.
ABM University College also partners to offer some courses that they feel are much needed by the local market. The college boast of about five campuses in Gaborone, Francistown and Masunga and has been admitted into the Association of African Universities.Because she believes that education should have a meaningful price tag, Molefhi says, she makes it a point that she has an influence on what goes into the curriculum by offering insight and advise on what to include in order to localise the content and remain relevant. ABM, for example, is offering Day Care Management and Early childhood education as a direct response to the market and the education sector’s vital need. She says above everything she is happy that her students are now employable and are among Botswana’s finest crop of emerging leaders. “I get motivated every day to see students, some from disadvantaged backgrounds excelling,” she says.
The 54-year-old wife and a mother of four is a serious book worm. Her private library at home, she says, is fully packed. Reading has basically made her, as before deciding to venture into business her brother recommended she read a motivational book called ‘How to stop worrying and start living’ by Dale Carnegie. She has since then read all his series. She, as a matter of fact, reads at least one book every month. During her college’s graduations her students are presented with motivational books as gifts. Apart from reading Molefhi also takes up gardening as a hobby.