The Universities of Botswana and Tromso have transformed a collaborative San research into a fully fledged Research Center.
The research programme initially targeted issues relating to the San people and their empowerment, which was conceived jointly by a Norwegian University in the name of Tromso and the University of Botswana, and became known as “UBTromso Collaborative Programme for San Research and Capacity Building.”
It has been hailed as a positive development in terms of widening the scope of research on matters relating to better understanding of San issues and building their capacity both academically and in other areas.
Dr Maitseo Bolaane, Coordinator of the new center and Senior History lecturer at the UB, said research was in the past conducted by foreigners, otherwise commonly referred to as international anthropologists.
“San specialized research then later became a somewhat joint affair when the UBTromso Collaborative project was started in 1996, and we are happy that on account of the advances and vast amount of experience acquired during the many years of working together with different partners, it has been possible to ultimately have a fully home ‘owned’ center of this scope,” enthused the assertive UB historian.
Bolaane posited that it was an equally commendable legacy that UBTromso now leaves in its trail an armed legion of researchers that the country can now pride itself in.
That was especially considered significant on account of the fact that all or almost all of the researchers at the new center are citizens with even more deepened local interest. Elaborating on what were the causes of existence of the UBTromso programme and how the newly established center seeks to move forward, Bolaane highlighted three major reasons.
She pointed out that there was concern that despite many years of well intended development projects in the country since independence, the San, otherwise commonly referred to as Basarwa, remained a marginalized and disempowered minority. For that reason there was need for change in policy and therefore it was necessary to employ thorough knowledge of the issues that are at stake in relation to the San if such policy changes are to be achieved.
“To be able to do that we need applied research, of which the Research Center for San Studies aims to make its core business,” said the UB academic.
Another point raised by Bolaane centered around previous research undertaken on Remote Area Development Programme (RADP). She argued that it cannot possibly have been adequate except as case studies and obviously insufficient for further generalizations since they were constrained by stipulated timeframes and were consequently not cumulative. But more importantly, the need for quality, continuity and sustained research, notwithstanding the impetus and momentum set by previous researchers, was highlighted as one of the major reasons why it was critical to have the UB as the overseeing institute for such a monumental task.
Only in that way, would it be practical to develop self generating national skills and make research resources more accessible for users.
Bolaane told the Sunday Standard in an interview that more than 13.5 million pula was used since the inception of the UBTromso initiative. The money was expended on research grants, scholarships and study trips as well as networking and organizing of conferences.
At its initial stages, the UBTromso invited project proposals and encouraged researchers to follow up their professional interests, applied to San issues.
Professor at the University of Tromso, Sidsel Saugestad, who was the Co-Coordinator of the Collaborative programme with Bolaane, was quoted in the Newsletter Vol.9, April 2010 as saying, “The idea was that Historians should look into San history, lawyers should look into San rights and linguists motivated to study KhoeSan languages.”
Commenting on the issue, an elderly resident of Khwai settlement near Moremi Game Reserve in the Ngamiland District said, “It is pleasing to learn there are people who take interest in our situation, and I hope they appreciate that we are no better off than the Basarwa in the CKGR.”