The community social investment arm of BIHL Group – BIHL Trust – has pledged to give education initiatives the biggest share of the cake in their five year strategy which will run from 2017 to 2022. “It is now more than ever paramount that we mobilise education programmes in our nation and across our continent, if we are to achieve sustainable development goals,” said BIHL Trust Board chairperson, Major General Bakwena Oitsile. According to Major General Oitsile, they believe that their strategic focus in the education sector will allow them to best contribute towards Botswana Government’s Vision 2036 imperative of a knowledge-based economy. “We are confident that through this 5-year strategy and particular focus on supporting the education sector we will achieve greater in partnership with Botswana youth, business people and communities. We will continue collaborating with our partners to identify, support and develop sustainable initiatives that will enable Batswana to empower themselves, be more productive and in turn see the uplifment of their communities,” said Major General Oitsile. The Trust has allocated a significant proportion of annual funding to education initiatives, including the realignment of the BIHL Trust Thomas Tlou Scholarship focus. From 2017, the Scholarship will focus on applications in pursuit of postgraduate degrees in the business, finance and information technology disciplines. Founded in 2012 on the legacy of among the nation’s most accomplished and beloved scholars Professor Thomas Tlou, this initiative is a highly competitive scholarship seeking to assist exceptional youth to achieve their highest potential and play an active role in the development of Botswana. Since inception, the Trust has sponsored seven programme participants. In 2015, the Trust increased the number of recipients from one at inception to 10 per year. To date, the Trust has sponsored 18 participants.
The Trust’s other sponsorships and initiatives in education include the Adopt-a-School programme which began in 2012 in partnership with Sebilo Book Services and the Ministry of Education where BIHL Trust adopted 11 schools around Botswana and installed libraries in the schools. They also initiated a Literacy programme in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Stepping Stones International. The programme, according to the Board chairperson, trains primary school teachers of schools they have adopted so that they can teach their pupils to read at appropriate age levels. According Major General Oitsile, the Trust also contributes annually to the Maru-a-Pula OVC fund. The Orphan and Vulnerable Children’s programme was lauched in 2005 and provides full schoolarship to OVCs who demonstrate the academic ability to thrive at a world-class learning institution such as Maru-a-Pula but cannot afford the costs. “As BIHL Trust, we have reserved P200,000.00 annually to go towards the OVC Fund. We have contributed over P1 million to date,” he said. In addition to education, the BIHL Trust‘s five-year strategy will focus on supporting community projects that align with social upliftment, economic empowerment, public health, recreation and conservation of the environment. The Trust’s decision came in consideration of pressing social needs of Batswana, the extent to which private sector aid is required and communities in which BIHL Group operates where community resources are limited. They will also support projects where the Group can make a sustainable impact in the lives of Batswana. The 5-year strategy sought to also align with Botswana Government’s Vision 2036 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In 2016, BIHL Trust ploughed back over P23 million into local communities.