Hospitals happy with UB trained medical doctors
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana (UB), Prof. David Norris says Hospital Managers across the country are very happy with the quality of the university’s trained medical doctors.
The Vice Chancellor was addressing councillors on Wednesday at Selebi Phikwe Town Council. The relatively new School of Medicine at the University has already produced doctors, both general practitioners and specialists now plying their trade in various hospitals across the country, Prof Norris has said.
He pointed out that the UB’s medical programme is an excellent one and was designed in partnership with the top two universities in the world, being Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania which is commonly known as UPenn. He revealed that another top institution of higher learning, the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom has recently expressed interest in partnering with the UB School of Medicine which bears testimony to the desirable quality that the university produces.
Prof. Norris conceded that while UB has played a very big role in the development of human capital needed to drive the economy of the country, the university has lagged behind in communicating their research output to the relevant communities and sectors so as to further impact positively on the economic development of the nation. He advanced that UB should have been the first to conduct research on the socio-economic impact posed by the closure of the BCL mine and coming up with recommendations on which economic activities can be conducted to breathe life back in the now ailing Selebi Phikwe.
The Vice Chancellor noted that UB was founded on the basis of the generosity of the people and therefore the university should play a meaningful role in economic development for Batswana. He pointed out that community engagement is central in building an all-inclusive institution where the university uses its great resources to impact positive change in different spheres of life and improve economic and social conditions as espoused in the university’s mission statement.
“For every challenge encountered, one has to rise up and succeed in the midst of challenges. We are here for you. UB was set up for the nation and therefore UB must rise up to the occasion and help the nation,” said Prof Norris. He said that the university has highly qualified academic staff who conduct academic deep-dive researches which are not known to the general public and business, pointing out that it is time for the university to go and meet the communities and local businesses to share research findings in order to inspire innovation and technological advancement.
“We cannot have a situation where professors sit in the office and pile up researches that they use only for their promotion. As professors, when we do research, one has to answer the question of whose problem are you trying to solve. We have played a big role in the development of human capital but we need to do a lot more. We have to do research with a developmental focus,” he said.
He described the Faculty of Business as fully fledged, capacitated and ready to work with various businesses to help them to thrive and enhance economic development. Prof Norris explained that Government Departments, local authorities and businesses can be partners in the building of an economically developed nation backed by research as businesses rely on innovation to prosper.
The Vice Chancellor further revealed that they intend to revise their strategic foundations to align their objectives with focus on becoming a leading international academic centre of excellence which is highly research intensive. He said as UB, they want to become a research based institution as universities across the world are recognised and ranked by the quality of their research output. To achieve this, he said the university will increase the number for postgraduate studies in order to improve their research capacity, pointing further that this is necessary as nations’ economies are driven by research and innovation.
Prof Norris said that their research interests include protection of indigenous knowledge where traditional medicine can be linked to science where people with knowledge of the traditional medicine can work with UB Scientists to scientifically test and provide scientific information for the traditional mixtures.
He said it is mind-boggling that in the modern day, some mothers who go to the hospitals to give birth never go back home alive while mothers in the olden times and some today who give birth at home through the help of elders undergo a normal natural birth and survive to take care of their babies. Prof Norris noted that traditional knowledge on natural birth can be shared with scientists to enhance delivery methods in maternity wards where life will be preserved and not lost.
Another partnering opportunity is with regard to the use of the University’s state-of-the-art facilities like the Indoor Sport Centre, the Olympic-size swimming pool and the stadium which sport developers can utilise to produce top athletes that can compete in international stage and fly the Botswana flag high.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”