In the world of break neck competition, BIUST (Botswana International University of Science and Technology) and BUAN (Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources) still have yet to prove their worth.
Indications are that University of Botswana is now on a path of reforms.
BUAN and BIUST have to do the same. – if not for anything, then for survival.
Right now both are proceeding down a path that can only lead to strategy decline.
This should not be allowed to happen. The two are too important to be allowed to fail.
Both BUAN and BIUST should be assisted to reach their full potential.
If drastic decisions have to be taken – so be it.
It is common knowledge that Government finances are dwindling.
Every year government reducers the amount it gives to these institutions.
And the two will in time be required to be on their own.
That will include having to work on raising money outside of government subventions.
Pretending otherwise will not help.
In fact our pretentions will with time prove not only unrealistic but costly too.
There is no question on the strategic relevance of both BIUST and BUAN.
With time such relevance will only grow.
But the administrators need to hone strategies that will look way beyond the local market.
They need to market themselves and attract global students.
That can only happen if they offer research and also advanced degrees.
BUAN and BIUST have to intensify their linkages with relevant industries.
They need to prove to their respective markets that each of them are at the cutting edge of technology and market developments.
Each of the two universities will only attract research funding once they have reputations on Research and Development growing.
Focus should shift towards tackling the immediate concerns.
Taking too long to correct the strategic imbalances inherent in the two tertiary institutions could have far more costly effects later.
It might be time to revisit the debates on where the two could be placed structurally.
Earlier on other people had argued against BUAN being made a fully-fledged university.
For some time BUAN was actually a faculty of the University of Botswana.
That made sense because BUAN is very small. In fact it is smaller than some faculties of the University of Botswana.
Placing BUAN under the wings of University of Botswana offered several benefits for BUAN.
But politics won the day.
It is not a secret that former President, Ian Khama had strong feelings against UB.
During Khama presidency, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party altogether lost grip of UB.
This happened at all levels – staff and also students.
The University became a base of hotheads and malcontents – at least according to president Ian Khama.
Not without a reason he was convinced that the university had totally digressed from its mandate and had become a wing and nest of opposition politics.
It was as a result of these strong politics that Khama declined until the end to visit the university.
A law had to be changed so that he could choose somebody else other than himself to become Chancellor of the university.
In contrast, Khama had a special place in his heart for BUAN.
In fact he readily agreed to become chancellor of BUAN until he was dethroned by his successor, Mokgweetsi Masisi on account of their reckless self-serving dispute.
A way has to be found to put both BIUST and BUAN on a growth pedestal.
Such growth should also ensure long-term sustainability.
Obviously there will be resistance.
Temptations of empire building remain strong.
But government should insist that both prove through their medium term strategies how they intend to wean themselves away from dependence on government money.
Whatever decision is ultimately taken it should be to strengthen both BUAN and BIUST, and not protect any narrow sectarian interests.
A lot is at stake, not only on what has already been spent on these two strategic institutions but also what the nation stands to lose if no proper decisions are taken to protect them going forward.
The idea of once again using student quotas to win their sustainability should be discouraged, not least because that only means more dependence on government.
Student numbers are only a part to the solution.
There are other sustainability dimensions that need to be addressed too.