“Catch them young”, is probably a common phrase that health officials use mostly to express the desire to have children drilled through issues of sexuality at an early stage. But this concept can be used also in academics. Atleast that what the message given by the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) Vice Chancellor – Otlogetswe Totolo seems to have been suggesting.
Totolo was addressing BIUST lecturers at the 5th annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) festival and the 2nd Research and Innovation Symposium (RAIS) held at the main campus.
He encouraged lecturers to start training student from preprimary schools especially at rural areas so that they grow being a good material for university education.
“As the vice chancellor of BIUST I have challenged my colleague’s that we have to be interested in what is happening in schools thus in preprimary, in primary and in secondary schools so that we can influence the curriculum in those schools,” he said.
Adding that they have to contribute to how this young people are taught in schools so that by the time they graduate and come to BIUST, lecturers be happy with their preparation and will never complain about where the students are from as they will be sure that they made an impact on how they are prepared in their former schools.
Totolo further informed BIUST community that government had high expectations on BIUST to transform the economy from a natural resource to a knowledge-based economy.
He noted; “Both the STEM and RAIS intend to move our country to a knowledge- based nation with skills, products and services that makes life better for our people and that contribute to our nation’s wealth and wellbeing.”
He also explained that this year a decision to combine both the STEM and the RAIS as a multidisciplinary function was taken not only for efficiency, effectiveness and value for money but to ensure that people get the best in sharing experiences and skills of key industry players here present from countries afar as Australia, Kenya, South Africa, United States of America, Oman, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
When officiating the event, assistant minister of tertiary education, research, science and technology-Moiseraele Goya said the theme: ‘STEM driven economy: transforming research into profitable products and services’ was appropriate as Botswana was shifting focus from a resource based to a knowledge based economy.
He stated that government had stepped up to the challenge, and was prioritising investment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects, through institutions such as BIUST.
He said in that connection, it is important for Botswana to train experts in STEM programmes in order for the country to become globally competitive.
“I am quite optimistic that beyond 2020 our tertiary institutions will start receiving student with high competency in science and mathematics. I am saying this because with effect from next year primary school examinable subjects will be reduced to 4 that is; MATHS, Science, English and Setswana therefore allocating more time on the study or teaching of these subjects,” Goya said.
He therefore, urged stakeholders to contribute to research and development funding, which he said are crucial to economic growth, job creation and improving the quality of life amongst communities.