Science institute faces delays

October 27, 2006

Botswana's second university - due to open next year - will not be finished until 2009 at the earliest, the Ministry of Education has confirmed.

The university is due to be built at Palapye, 260km northeast of Gaborone in an area lacking the infrastructure and industrial base for a designated university of science and technology.

And the delays are causing problems for the University of Botswana. Its faculty of engineering and technology was due be moved to the second university, while the Botswana College of Agriculture, an affiliated institution of the existing university, has also been recommended for transfer to the second university.

As a result of the potential reorganisation, development of the engineering and technology faculty at the University of Botswana, for which government funding has been approved, is on hold. Some staff are seeking employment elsewhere as their contracts are with the University of Botswana and they are reluctant to go to Palapye.

It is hoped that the second university will be a world-class research institute and a magnet for students and staff from throughout Africa and beyond. This would require resources on a scale never made available to the University of Botswana. More money would be needed for salaries, laboratories, graduate studies stipends and scholarships and endowed professorships.

The critical need for a second university has been recognised since 2000, when the end of Botswana's national service led to an increase in the number seeking entry to tertiary institutions, from 12,000 to 20,000.

As a crisis measure, more than 6,000 students were placed in universities elsewhere in the world (mainly in South Africa, Malaysia and Australia).

Only 6 per cent of the university age group gains access to higher education in Botswana (compared with 15 per cent in South Africa). Botswana wants to raise this to 12 per cent by 2016.

The task force that produced the original plan for the second university, in May 2004, considered five towns and one city in Botswana but did not recommend placing the new university at Palapye.

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