The government’s pet talk of cost sharing in education has come under sharp relief with its apparent reluctance to come to the party.
Middle class families in the country whose children study in Russia have been left in the cold to bear the costs of tertiary education alone even as some university programmes offered abroad are not readily available locally.
Presently, there are about 150 students from Botswana in Russia, studying in Moscow, and dozens of other cities such as St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Tambov, Lipetsk, Saratov, Makhachkala, Veliky Novgorod, Volgograd and Ryazan.
“Batswana studying in Russia are sponsored either by the Russian Government or by their families. Every year the Government of the Russian Federation provides Botswana with state scholarships on big variety of specialties. Last year 10 Batswana students went to Russia sponsored by the Russian Government. We expect the number of scholarships to increase in 2011. Besides, Russia provides 14 student scholarships for SADC [Southern African Development Community] countries annually, of which 1 belongs to Botswana,” says Anatoly Korsun, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Botswana.
The areas of study include medicine, microbiology, aircraft engineering and piloting, agriculture, mining, industries, architecture, radio technology, veterinary, computer engineering and programming, economics, finance and management, international relations and information technology among others.
Some renowned Botswana statesmen, doctors, architects, businessmen have graduated from the Soviet universities.
In 1990s the number of Batswana students in universities of the newly-formed Russian Federation was quite low due to several reasons. The first big wave of Botswana graduates from Russian universities will be in the coming years.
Ambassador Korsun says there is an opportunity of self-sponsored education in Russia.
“It can be obtained with assistance of the Russian educational agency “RACUS”. Its representative Elena Molefi works in Gaborone.
RACUS provides high education programs in different Universities of Russia on various disciplines on commercial basis.
Most universities offer studies in the Russian language. Therefore students spend the first 9 months learning Russian, after which they follow a standard university program. Some universities propose studying in English. Several years ago, some high-schools started providing general courses in English plus study of the Russian language during the first three years, after which students have normal practice in Russian. The latter option requires perfect knowledge of English, says the ambassador.
According to him, the standard university program includes five years (six years for medicine) after which a graduate passes exams and gets a specialist degree.
The average cost of one-year studying amounts to approximately P25 000 while the average cost of living in Russia for a student varies from 350 to 450 US dollars a month, depending on the region where respective higher education institution is located. The smaller the city, the cheaper the life there, according to the ambassador.
The Ministry of Education got the largest share of the budget on Monday, with some pundits and opposition parties expecting that a sizeable amount will go towards the Botswana International University of Science and Technology.
The Minister of Education and Skills Development could not be reached for comment by press time as her mobile phone was off.