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BIUST targets 6000 scientists by 2022

Publishing Date : 24 October, 2017


The Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) Vice Chancellor, Professor Otlogetswe Totolo has expressed regret at the practice adopted by most Senior Secondary Schools in the country where students are segregated through some form of a caste system when it comes to taking science classes.

Encouraging more students to take up sciences will help the BIUST Strategic Plan 2016-2022 which spells out that the University intends to have a student headcount of 6000 students by the year 2022, with 5000 being undergraduate and 1000 post graduate. The University started with a student population of 256 and today it has an enrolment of 1700 students. BIUST also wants 15% of the population at the University to be international students.

A number of senior secondary schools in Botswana have some students doing single sciences, some doing double sciences and another group doing combined sciences. Professor Totolo wants students to be given an opportunity to enjoy the subjects of science and mathematics. According to Totolo, from these numbers Botswana will be able to harvest various disciplines of science who could help give the economy the new direction of knowledge based approach as compared to resource based approach.

He said there is no need to box students into combined sciences and double sciences, “but at the end of the day this practice could only be guided by a policy direction so that more students,” he stated. Speaking in an interview with WeekendPost Professor Totolo revealed that they are working closely with primary schools to spread the culture of science and technology. “The feedback is great because students are expressing a lot of passion for the subjects,” he said.

The experience we got from surrounding villages is that children are afraid to do these subjects because they have been told that their very difficult but after our interactions with these pupils we notice that they enjoy them,” further observed the BIUST Vice chancellor. According to Totolo, they have so far touched 60 000 young lives through this crusade, “we tell them that science is an exciting subject.” The Vice Chancellor said they conduct Science and Mathematics Fairs occasionally and they have pupils participating regularly from villages such as Moiyabana. He said their initiatives have not left out teachers at primary schools.

“We are training primary schools in sciences and technology. We have even touched teachers because we are introducing them to technology especially when it comes to preparing their scheme books and preparing marks for students.” Professor Totolo indicated that teachers in primary schools around Palapye have been taught computer programmes that could assist them to do marking and calculate marks for students.  

BIUST also has an organisation called Scientists and Engineers Without Borders which helps communities through various interventions. They have so far built a water pipeline in Dikabeya; renovated a clinic in the same village. Professor Totolo said BIUST students are being trained to become problem solvers hence their community service involves coming up with solutions for Batswana. The BIUST Vice Chancellor observed that as children see BIUST students in their communities providing these solutions it is the expectation that they will also be motivated to develop affinity for science subjects. “The pedagogy at BIUST is training to find solutions, that is how our students and graduates are oriented.”  

Professor Totolo is confident that BIUST can develop a scientist from a young age up until they enter the actual BIUST gates for degree, Masters or PhD programmes. He pointed out that their students go for a six months industrial training as part of their modules. The passionate Professor shared that “whatever science and technology that one is doing should be in the context of the society. We demand that 15 percent of our programmes should be made of soft skills such as entrepreneurship and other social skills before our students graduate.”

In February this year BIUST released its first crop of graduates, and Professor Totolo is confident that they are already providing solutions to the industry. The Vice Chancellor said as an institution that is aggressive in research, their programmes are accredited by Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) and various other bodies such as the Engineering Council of South Africa, the Engineers Board and automatically BIUST students are recognized by the Washington Accord because of their affiliation to these bodies.

“This means that they can be hired internationally and practice in almost all English speaking countries,” said Professor Totolo.  He encouraged students to take up sciences and mathematics and enroll in similar subjects with BIUST because they will have the opportunity to provide solutions to the country’s economy. “I would envisage a BIUST that has more products and services responding to the challenges of Batswana. A BIUST that has a closer cooperation with other parastatals that have a similar mandate such as BITRI and Botswana Innovation Hub.”  He said the two parastatals could tap into the resources at BIUST to streamline costs and to share knowledge.



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