The debate on the deteriorating quality of education in Botswana took a new turn last week when academics condemned the proliferation of many private "universities", which currently stand at seven serving a population of approximately two million people, and called for their closure. Different speakers at a BOT50 Public Lecture Series under the topic “Capturing Botswana’s Major Milestones” at the University of Botswana (UB) Centre for Continuing Education last week said the new "universities" are duplicating programmes offered at already existing government tertiary institutions while the quality of some courses they offer is suspect. The public lecture was organised to capture the country’s major milestones since independence such as the introduction of the local currency, national railways and airline, the discovery of diamonds and its first university.
A discussant on the subject, Professor Part Mgadla from the University of Botswana Confucius Institute said if he had the powers he would close those universities that provide already existing programmes. He said having seven universities, all in Gaborone is too much, and leads to duplication of programmes which in some institutions are accredited by universities outside the country. This creates a problem of monitoring the quality of the programmes, he said. Former PPADB boss Armando Lionjanga had asked the panellists to comment on the proliferation of private universities in a small population of just about two million people, and the implications on the quality of graduates. Deputy Vice Chancellor (Student Affairs) Professor Martin Mokgwathi dedictated part of his vote of thanks speech to extol the academic superiority of UB, as the best the country can offer. He cautioned that academic excellence at the institution should not be "vocationalised" in an attempt to cast aspersion on their integrity and questioning the quality of their graduates. "We are proud of who we are. Some of us have lived all our lives here as students and later teaching in the same institution. Therefore there is no doubt that we are the best in this country," he said.
Giving a public lecture on some of Botswana’s major milestones from the time the country gained independence fifty years ago former Minister of Education (1994 to 1999), Dr Gaositwe Chiepe, expressed hope that the numerous national and private universities which have mushroomed in the country will complement and cooperate among themselves. Last week the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) released a statement criticising some universities, among them the UB for failing to advise potential students about courses which do not attract sponsorship from government. It also emerged in the statement that UB has failed to attract enough students for the 2016/17 academic year. UB was established and granted land to develop into a mighty university after Botswana’s founding President the late Sir Seretse Khama called on the nation to practice self-help. With the war cry of one man one beast Botswana University Campus Appeal (BUCA) was launched, attracting staggering donations of cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, bags of maize or beans, money.