Botho TET Talks Emphasise Inspiration and Student Engagement in Teaching
On the 28th of February Botho University's Teaching Excellence Department hosted an enlightening symposium featuring lectures delivered by two higher education specialists from South African universities. Botho Teaching Excellence Talks (TET) is a creative platform for interactive dialogue among academics on issues that bear on the quality of teaching and learning.
For this edition of the forum Professor Nqambozi Gawe, a former Deputy VC of the Durban University of Technology, delivered a presentation under the title 'Teaching excellence and transformative learning.' Gawe underscored the crucial teaching goal of igniting a passion for learning in students.
She explained that it is important for lecturers not to just show off their knowledge to learners but also to ignite a passion for learning the subject in them. Gawe recalls a learning environment during her time at university in which learners were expected to parrot what they had read in textbooks or risk failing tests as individualised understanding of concepts was not accepted. Now, however, she notes the trend is rightfully moving towards more student involvement and flexibility in the learning process.
Her message was that students need to be given the freedom to grow outside the textbook and what the lecturer has taught, a goal which can be best achieved through 'inspirational teaching' which is describedas being "transformational in the sense that it has sustained positive impact on student learning."
She went on to share that the literature on teaching excellence identifies four overarching themes:Knowledge and passion for the subject; Understanding learning and knowledge; Constructive and challenging learning environment; and Students as individuals, partners and colleagues."
Meanwhile, Ms. Lindi Tlou, the Head of the Quality Unit at the University of Pretoria, delivered a presentation under the title 'Strategies for promoting excellent teaching practices through student engagement in quality assurance processes.'
Tlou placed particular emphasis on achieving a high level of student satisfaction and an exceptional student experience as criteria for excellence in academic institutions. Tlou discussed various models which attempt to define the role of students in quality assurance and identified the 'Student Co-constructors Approach' as her favoured model; this approach encourages students to actively participate and co-construct quality assurance policies and practices.
She says that the key benefits of adopting this approach are that it allows students to objectively assess the quality of the education they are receiving as well as the long-term value of the overall learning experience afforded by the particular institution. Ideally this transforms students from passive receivers of information to partners actively participating in constructing and shaping the quality of education. Inculcating this sense of responsibility for learning outcomes in the students themselves can only make it more likely that the students will make the most out of their time in academic institutions.
The ensuing discussions were lively and addressed the role of students in achieving higher education excellence from various perspectives, with many important factors highlighted such as the job satisfaction of lecturers and the overall learning culture of an institution.
Botho University Makes It Happen For BU Women in Gaborone & Francistown
It is said that when you empower a woman you empower the whole society. Women play many important roles in society; as mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. This is why Botho University celebrated International Women's Day at both its Gaborone and Francistown campuses.
On March 9th 2015 the Gaborone campus celebrated with a purple themed Monday during which female staff members and students of BU were encouraged to wear anything purple or white to honour the day. The day was also used as an occasion to mark the official use of the BU library lift by the community.
Throughout the day the BU Library hosted a series of special events such as poetry performances on love and women. The BU club 'Girl Power' hosted 'Girls purple shower', a session in which female students participated in a discussion of issues affecting girls and how the library can support them and were pampered with snacks and purple manicure.
There was also a screening of the award winning film 'Yesterday' that follows the plight of a rural woman, played by Lelethi Khumalo of 'Sarafina' fame, who struggles with issues such as an absent husband, HIV/AIDS and raising a school-going girl child.
Meanwhile, the Francistown campus ladies celebrated with a purple-themed Saturday on the 7th of March 2015, dressing in the theme colour of purple.
The event was well-attended by BU female staff members and students in Francistown. The programme included welcoming remarks by Neelo Mhaladi on the International Women's Day theme 'Make it Happen';a keynote speech by Dr. Emma Katengua who encouraged the audience members to strive for success in every area of their lives; and speeches by Ms. Wetsho Mosokwe and Ms. Tefo Komanyane who spoke about women empowerment and gender equality
Activities of the day included a visit to the library stall and live performances of empowering songs and dancing. Women were also afforded the opportunity to share their experiences with one another and their thoughts on how they can achieve success in the world of today as they are the pillars of society.
Botho adopted the International Women's Day 2015 theme 'Make It Happen' along with the theme colour purple. The'Make It Happen' theme encourages effective action for advancing and recognising women while the colourpurple is said to symbolize justice and dignity, two values strongly associated with women's equality.
International Women's Day is celebrated annually on the 8th of March around the world and is seen as an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for gender equality and the development of women. This goes along with Botswana's vision 2016 of having an empowered and compassionate, just and caring nation
The first international women's day was commemorated in the 1900's in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
Botho University Stands Out At Tertiary Education Fair 2015
The Tertiary Education Fair, first introduced by the Tertiary Education Council (TEC) and its partners in 2010 to bring together prospective tertiary education students and the various institutions with a presence in Botswana, was held once again on the 25th to 28th of March 2015 and Botho University (BU) was on hand to seize the opportunity.
Botho University takes pride in exhibiting at the TE Fair as it is a way of showcasing the strides that the university has taken between exhibitions and this year the institution's stall was without question the most eye-catching.
A space of 9 stalls was combined to create an open courtyard setting where prospective students could ask questions and even register on the spot. The most memorable feature was the spherical theme with spherical structures bearing the BU branding hanging from above the area. There were 19 creatively designed distinct panels decorating the space from the inside and out, each promoting different aspects of the institution, including the different faculties and clubs. Botho University earned position 2 amongst private university stalls.
The stall was a beehive of activity throughout the fair as scores of young excited would-be scholars scrambled to ask questions, with many registering on the spot. Applications to the university were made easy using online application systems to register students to the university from the fair venue and a tablet PC was given away through a raffle for students who had applied to BU during the fair and answered a few questions about the institution.
Botho TE Talks Underscore the Teaching and Resources Balance and the Virtue of Service Learning
On the 25th of April Botho University's Teaching Excellence Department hosted an enlightening symposium featuring lectures delivered by two higher education specialists from South African universities. Botho Teaching Excellence (TE) Talks is a creative platform for interactive dialogue among academics on issues that bear on the quality of teaching and learning.
The first was delivered by Professor Anton Basson, Vice-Dean in charge of Teaching and Quality Assurance in the Faculty of Engineering at Stellenbosch University, under the title "Four overall criteria for quality teaching – an international accreditation perspective." The central message of his presentation was that teaching is about getting the balance between learning and resources right. There is a symbiotic relationship between the time and money an institution commits to teaching and the quality of learning achieved by students.
Basson shared his experiences as an engineering academic in South Africa, explaining how the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) accredits engineering programmes in the country by carrying out regular accreditation visits to ensure that the processes of an institution's engineering school are meeting the ECSA standards. "These accreditation visits are very demanding because they involve mounds of paperwork but the ironic thing is that the greatest benefit comes from the preparation for the visit," Basson enthused, "because it forces you to scrutinise your processes and encourages a continuous improvement mindset."
Basson also highlighted that an institution should reward good teaching that results in good learning while discouraging good teaching that leads to bad learning. The difference between the two has a lot to do with the level of expectation lecturers have of their students. Good teaching can lead to bad learning if a lecturer is too eager to help their students to the point that it becomes spoon feeding rather than guidance. Good learning can only be achieved if the teaching encourages students to become active participants in their learning, rather than just passive recipients of instruction.
During the question and answer session a Botho University lecturer in the audience pointed out that the assessments that students give on their lecturers at the end of a course put lecturers in a tough position because students quite often praise the lecturers who spoon feed them while condemning the lecturers who demand more of them. Basson acknowledged that this is a reality which all lecturers face and insisted that all institutions need to be more aware of the fact that student assessments can have the unintended consequence of making lecturers afraid to demand high performance from their students.
The second lecture was delivered by Professor Sunitha C. Srinivas, an Associate Professor at Rhodes University, under the title "Service learning: synergy of teaching and learning, research and community engagement." The central message of her presentation was that the best way for students to learn is to put them in an environment in which they are forced to apply all the concepts they have been taught in the classroom. "The only time growth occurs is when you're in a space in which you're uncomfortable," insists Srinivas.
Srinivas shared her personal story of how at the age of 27 she already occupied an important position in the World Health Organisation (WHO), so her rise on the 'golden ladder' was promising, but she decided to quit the organisation and go into teaching because she realised that "you don't train soldiers for a war on the battlefield; you train them somewhere else." She now lecturers Environmental Management and places a great emphasis on the concept of service learning, which she describes as an excellent tool that steers one away from the traditional 'disease-drug-dispense' model in pharmacy education. Srinivas laments that the traditional model in pharmacy education encourages practitioners to first wait for people to get sick and then recommend medication to cure the sickness while she believes the best approach is to emphasise prevention of disease by engaging with the community to encourage good personal healthcare practices.
It is in this spirit that every year Srinivas takes her students to Grahamstown Sci-Fest where these students teach the attending children and adults about personal health practices. She chooses the topics her students will focus on, not by looking in a text book, but rather by asking the local health NGOs: what are the important topics they would like more people to be aware of? This way the information her students give out is relevant to the current needs of society. For instance, in 2014 the topics she collected from NGOs were Plastic and Litter, Water Conservation and Safe Disposal of Medicines. The students spend a week interacting with members of communities with limited access to healthcare and the experience is always transformative for them.
Srinivas knows this for a fact because after the Sci-Fest she invites the Centre for Higher Education Research Teaching and Learning to analyse the benefits of this service-learning project through a feedback diagnostic administered on the students. Srinivas highlights that it is important that this feedback diagnostic be conducted by an independent third party because if she was to ask students what they learned they would simply tell her what they thought she wanted to hear. The results of this feedback consistently reveal that the benefits students feel they gained from participating in Sci-Fest include skills such as: working in a team; organising and managing oneself; communicating effectively; as well as reflecting on and exploring effective learning strategies. However, the most crucial lesson is that they began to understand the importance of community engagement in the promotion of proper healthcare practices.
Srinivas went on to say that this initiative doesn't end when students finish her course because she encourages volunteers from the Rhodes University Pharmacy Students Association (RUPSA) to work with a local Youth Development NGO called Upstart to collaborate on continuing to sensitise communities on good healthcare practices.
Her presentation made it quite easy to understand why in November last year Srinivas received the 2014 National Teaching Excellence Award jointly organised by the Council
BU Francistown hosts Career Fair for Students and Alumni
On the 16th of April 2015 the Department of Student Affairs & Alumni held a career fair for Botho University students and alumni at the Francistown campus under the theme "Striving towards a successful partnership in creating career opportunities."
The event gave Botho University students and graduates an opportunity to interact and learn about career prospects in line with their field of study. Several companies and government departments such as the Ministry of Youth Sports & Culture, Education USA, LEA, and BOCCIM were invited to set up stalls and answer questions from students and alumni.
Distinguished guests including Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Development & Employability Mrs. Priya Iyer, Dean of Office of Student, Research & Outreach (OSRO) Dr. Bathsheba Mbongwe and BOCCIM Regional Manager for Francistown Mr. Kebaabetswe Bogatsu graced the event.
When delivering the keynote address, Public Relations Manager for Tati Nickel Mining Company (TNMC) Mr. Tebogo Rapitsenyana asserted that he is impressed by the level of growth Botho University has achieved since its inception and the many international awards and certifications the institution has received, including the BOS ISO 9001:2008 certification and the recent recognition from AAT. "This is a clear indication that the calibre of graduates produced in this university is of great quality," he said.
Mr. Rapitsenyana appealed to companies and government departments to give students and graduates opportunities to acquire exposure and experience through internships, voluntary work and job shadowing in their respective companies. Rapitsenyane added that his company TNMC continues to play an active role in the community through its Corporate Social Responsibility program which focuses on education, amongst other things.
Additionally, BOCCIM Regional Manager for Francistown Mr. Kebaabetswe Bogatsu gave an inspiring speech in which he urged Botho university students and alumni to be different and think outside the box. Furthermore, District Youth Coordinator from the Department of Youth, Sports & Culture Ms. Minkie Bokole shared with the participants the available youth programs and schemes that young people can take advantage of to become self-employed.
In conclusion, Dean of OSRO Dr. Bathsheba Mbongwe applauded all the companies, media houses and government departments that were represented at the career fair for having contributed to the success of this event.
Botho Sparks Dialogue with Entrepreneurship World Café
On the 6th of May 2015 the Department of Students & Alumni Affairs hosted the first ever Botho University Entrepreneurship World Café.
The World Café is a user-friendly method for creating meaningful and cooperative dialogue around questions that count. As an organisational or social design process the World Café offers a practical way to enhance the human capacity for collaborative thought. Born out of the worldwide interest in dialogue methodologies, World Café is a system readily applicable to organisations and communities that catalyses dynamic conversations and opens new possibilities for action.
Entrepreneurship was the topic chosen to be tackled using this method due to the high rate of unemployment within Botswana and the identification of entrepreneurship as one of the best ways to find a solution to this problem. Social Entrepreneurship was the focal point of discussion as it is a relatively new trend that people in Botswana are not quite familiar with. The purpose of this discussion was not only to raise awareness and provoke thought but also to gather those thoughts with the intention of using them in the process of establishing the Entrepreneurship Laboratory which will accelerate and foster the entrepreneurship experience outside of the classroom and in the community.
The event, which was attended by both students and staff members, was facilitated by Professor Gia Interlandi, a Leadership Consultant who introduced the concept. Gia Interlandi teaches and consults on the principles of leadership, strategic planning and meeting facilitation. In addition to executives in the United States of America and Europe, she has worked with fire-fighters and police officers in Chicago and undergraduates at Northwestern University. Professor Interlandi has facilitated strategic planning meetings and consulted to a variety of organisations including international corporations such as McDonald's, not-for-profits, high-tech companies, the City of Chicago and the U.S. Department of State.
In a World Café dialogue, small, intimate conversations link and build on each other as people move between groups, cross-pollinate ideas and make new connections around questions that really matter to their life, work or community.
As this living network of conversations evolves through several rounds of exploration, knowledge-sharing grows, a sense of the whole becomes more visible and innovative possibilities evolve. Due to its unique structure, Café learning enables large groups, often of hundreds of people, to think together creatively as part of a single, connected conversation. One simple realisation has catalysed the growing success of the World Café: the way human beings talk with one another and engage in conversations often leads neither to a better understanding nor to improved cooperation.
Staff members of the Students & Alumni Affairs Department were happy with the staging of the World Café event as thoughts were provoked and lively discussions were sparked. A lot was taken away from the discussions and the department plans to tackle more issues using this method going forward.
Botho Community Outreach Encourages Tree Planting
Botho Community Outreach held its first project, a tree planting event, on the 27th of April 2015 at Boswa Primary school.
The event was graced by the presence of various dignitaries, including Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South Mr. Ndaba Gaolathe, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Employability and Development for Botho University Mrs. Priya Iyer, Dean of Office of Student Research and Outreach at Botho University Dr. B.B. Mbongwe and Managing Director of Pan Solutions Mr. Ngwako.
During the event different speakers acknowledged the club for identifying a need to plant trees at Boswa as this benefits the pupils in many ways including providing shelter for students as playing on hot days previously exposed them to health risks associated with exposure to direct sunlight and high temperatures. The trees do not only benefit the students but are also a step forward to reduce global warming. Boswa choir rounded up the activities of the day with a well sang melody. Seven trees were planted on the day with six of the trees surrounding the playground and the last one in front of the school main gate.
The students were delighted to witness the MP Mr. Gaolathe planting a tree at their school. The club members acquired new skills on how to plant trees and also learned the importance of doing community work. The club went the extra mile to provide what was needed for the event including banners, shelter, snacks and drinks, and managed to complete the project on schedule. The club was able to carry out most of its objectives, instilling confidence in the club members and encouraging them to work on future projects. The efforts of all club members ensured that the event was a success.
The club wishes to extend its gratitude to Botho University management for allowing it to use various resources and providing assistance where necessary; the Member of Parliament MP Gaolathe and other dignitaries for gracing the event; and the Department of Forestry and Ranchers for providing the club with trees.
Botho University Underscores Entrepreneurship at Memorable Graduation Ceremony
On the 27th of May Botho University hosted another memorable graduation ceremony at the institutions Gaborone campus.
During her speech at what was the institution's second graduation ceremony as a university, Vice-Chancellor Dr Sheela Raja Ram made all the graduates repeat after her: "Our vision is an Africa that is self-reliant." The phrase is taken from Ugandan Entrepreneur Isaac Oboth, the 26-year-old CEO of Media265, who entered the business world selling cakes to his classmates in high school and ended up establishing a successful television production company.
Ram explained that she chose to quote this young man because he is a clear example that the graduates should not feel their opportunities for success are limited because they live in Africa. Indeed the theme of the ceremony was entrepreneurship, with Ram further insisting to the graduates, "It would be unfair of me to tell you to go out and look for jobs because there just aren't enough in the country, so rather go out and create your own jobs."
The Guest of Honour was young Motswana entrepreneur Molefi Nkwete, who is the founder of the hip-hop clothing retail chain Urban Soul (formerly known as Mafia Soul). During his Key Note Address, Nkwete explained to the fresh graduates in attendance that one of the biggest challenges he faced starting a business is that people tend not to believe in young people. "I would approach property developers and they would tell me I was crazy for wanting to own a store at my age," recalled Nkwete. Fortunately he did find one person who believed in him enough to help him build that first store that has grown into a chain of four stores today. He encouraged the students to develop fresh business ideas and to persevere no matter what obstacles they encounter as entrepreneurs.
The graduates were from 12 different programmes, including three Postgraduate qualifications, six Bachelor's Degrees and three Professional Diplomas.Awards were given out to the Best Performing students in each programme but the biggest winner of the day was Patricia Nkwane who walked away with the three top honours: The Best Overall Student Award, The Festus Mogae Academic Excellence Award, which came with a cheque for P5,000, and The Sir Seretse Khama Spirit of Botho Award, which came with a cheque for P10,000.00.
BU Education and Distance Learning Faculty Hosts National Research Conference
On the 17th of June Botho University's Faculty of Education and Distance Learning hosted its first National Research Conference. The one-day research conference focused on the theme, "Rethinking, Transforming and Changing Education in the 21st Century." It was a huge success as it managed to enlighten the education fraternity by bringing together national educators in a forum for intense debate about how education can be revamped to meet the needs of the nation, students, educators, and the global community while still falling in line with Vision 2016 and the Millennium Development Goals.
The conference was well attended by representatives from various local institutions including the University of Botswana, Botswana College of Open and Distance Learning, Imperial School of Business and Science, Ba-Isago University College, New Era College, Gaborone Technical College and Botswana College of Agriculture, among others.
Participants agreed that more forums of this kind are needed to bring together educators and the need for collaboration was indeed emphasised by Keynote speaker Prof. S. Tichapondwa Modesto from BOCODOL. For her part, UB's Prof. Rebecca Lekoko emphasised the need to transform Botswana's education system and reinforced the need for everybody to take responsibility for the nation's future.
The conference was an initiative by the Faculty of Education & Distance Learning intended to promote research skills within Botho University and in Botswana as a whole. It provided a platform for peer-learning and networking, and a conducive environment for researchers to engage on hot issues related to education in a friendly and professional manner. It also gave our Master of Education in Higher Education students an opportunity to showcase their work.
ASSOCIATION OF AFRICAN UNIVERSITIES’ 8TH LEADERSHIP SKILLS DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP HOSTED BY BOTHO UNIVERSITY, BOTSWANA.
Between the 10th and 14th of August, Botho University hosted the 8th Association of African Universities (AAU) Leadership Skills Development Workshop (LEDEV).
AAU is the apex organization and forum for consultation, exchange of information and co-operation among institutions of higher education in Africa. It represents the voice of higher education in Africa on regional and international bodies and supports networking by institutions of higher education in teaching, research, information exchange and dissemination.
During her welcoming remarks BU Vice-Chancellor Dr. Sheela Raja Ram remarked that Higher Education is now in focus as African nations strive to become self-sufficient and that the AAU series has helped the leadership of many African universities to achieve the ambitious goal of delivering employable graduates with shoestring budgets.
Dr. Sheela Raja Ram attended the 5th LEDEV in 2013 when it was held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, the same year that BU achieved university status, and shared that from her personal experience she found the leadership training workshop extremely useful in growing her young university to deliver high quality.
"I met a number of esteemed senior colleagues from other large universities and in our discussions and training sessions it soon became clear that big or small, old or new, the problems we faced in higher education were similar," Dr. Sheela Raja Ram said. "My burden really felt shared."
In his keynote address the Assistant Minister of Education & Skills Development Hon. Kgotla Kenneth Autlwetse urged the distinguished audience not to be by-standers while the rest of the world is grappling with complexities besieging the education domain.
"In bringing this AAU workshop here, Botho University has not only made me proud but also instilled immense confidence in my government that we can transform, and indeed shall transform in consonance with strategy 2020 which we recently launched," said Autlwetse. "My Ministry continues to support and encourage institutions like Botho University to review and reflect on current leadership practices and ensure that quality of Higher Education in Botswana is globally attractive."
"The prime purpose of the AAU Leadership Development (LEDEV) workshop series is to enhance the leadership skills of university leaders, particularly in the promotion of innovation and the management of change," Secretary General of the AAU Professor Etienne E. Ehile explained during the opening address.
The Association of African Universities' (AAU) current membership comprises over 340 institutions and is spread across the five sub-regions of Africa and over all the major linguistic distributions on the continent.
This edition of the training series boasted the highest participation and most varied, in terms of institutional representation, of any AAU training series to date. 54 registered participants, including the Vice Chancellors, Deans, Deputy Vice Chancellors, and Senior Executives of universities from 23 institutions in 9 African countries attended. The represented countries included Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Tanzania, amongst others.