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Peo University: What’s in a name?

What is in the name? Peo University, Temo-Thuo University, Segaolane University, Sebele University; these are some of the names running through my minds as I ponder why the name for the university of agriculture and natural resources was settled for Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Source.

Is it that as Batswana we have now caught up in this syndrome of Botswana this, Botswana that. Is it that we are not creative enough? Following the announcement by the ministry of agriculture that BCA is to transform into a university there was a hasty consultation to find a name for the university. The previous attempts to source the name from staff and students and the suggested names were banked.

Botswana College of Agriculture decided to take the route of consulting Batswana because it know how Batswana identify with agriculture and how Batswana value the agricultural training that their children, husbands, wife and relatives received from BCA.

It knows that Batswana remembers how the frontline extension workers who trained at BCA and its former forerunner, BAC, has and are helping them improve their farming. What is in the name? Everyone, especially African knows the importance of a name.

If this university we are eagerly waiting for was a child, its parents would have reserved an appropriate name that will carry their best wishes for the child, a name that would signify the greatness that may emanate from the works of this child and a name that would not be a curse to the child. In Setswana we know that leina lebe seromo.

A name that would uphold the status of the family or community. In the case of BCA, the name that would be carried by the university should be able to brand the new institution without burdening it with name of a person, alive or deceased (Batswana seem to detest naming any institution or monuments after any iconic persons in our society, safe for the first president).

It should not be a name that creates complications in the future, necessitating a change in the name. It also should not be a name based on the subject matter (agriculture) that would not allow the university in the future to diversify its programmes. This transformation is important for Botswana agriculture and not only for agriculture but it is important for the education sector.

Hence, an appropriate name that would sell the university is paramount. See in the local media how Sefalana is re-inventing itself, the new logo and the meaning of the name itself, Sefalana, a basket of opportunities, which is relevant to  its business of food. Can BCA learn a thing or two from Sefalana?

From casual observation, it appeared that Batswana preferred an indigenous name, the one that is not heavily weighed on by cliché like international or national. If at all international refers to reputation, then that would be determined by the works of the university and not the connotation of the word international, hence the word international should not appear in the name of the new university.

However, those consulted were complacent and mistook the mandate that was announced by the Minister of Agriculture as a given name and easily settle for Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Were these people the appropriate people to consult? The potential clients of the university who are form 4 and form 5 students, the current students at BCA should be the one consulted; the people who are going to interact with the name at a daily basis, not their grandparents who will never go to the university.

Why did I entitle this article “Peo University”? It is my dream. I reckon many people including students had their dream name for the new university. The word Peo means seed, it signify life, and it declares agriculture. It says agriculture without shouting AGRICULTURE.

It stands for a new beginning; the future, its represent vegetation, it is green and it symbolises abundance of food. Peo tell a story of your great grandmothers who were selecting, conserving and sharing indigenous seeds before the arrival of hybrids and Monsanto.

It talks about regeneration, recycling and sustainability, all the attributes of agriculture and natural resources which the university will be anchor on. Peo denotes sperms from our Tswana bulls and ova from our fertile heifers.

Peo symbolises the fertility (fertility of ideas) of our young prospective farmers.  As most people are becoming excited about the new development, the name Peo represent new prospects in education; the prospects of innovation and new ideas that would be ushered by the new university. 

Why should the word agriculture not be made to burden the new university? This is because agriculture is currently not considered cool with the new generation. Therefore, let us put the word agriculture aside in the naming of the new university and only include it in the mandate and objectives.

The problem is that agriculture is been look down upon by many young people, even though that trend seem to be changing, albeit slowly.  At the moment BCA is struggling to attract the best students, they prefer to go to UB and other institutions. In addition, the name of the new university should say something about who were are as Batswana, and as Africans in general. An Afrocentric name that tells the story of our journey as cattle people, trekking from Central Africa to the south of Africa, some thousand years ago.

Temo-thuo has been the blood, sweat and tears of all Batswana; the blood when they lose their saving trying to venture into agriculture, when they know very well that it is a risky business. Blood, when they break their backs tilling the land, even when they is no sign of rain.  Tears, when they cry for their recently acquired poverty status after their cattle has been killed due to lung disease and FMD. Crying for their crops, scorched by the sizzling Botswana heat and drought. Tears of joy after it has rained, admiring their harvest, holding a new calf or lamb.

Therefore, the name Peo University is not only steeped in tradition of Batswana but it also represent a promise of better things to come, technological solutions that would take Botswana agriculture to new heights. It says sometime about our ideas on how we want to tackle effects of climate changes.

It pronounces how we want to harness indigenous knowledge to wrestle with poverty, FMD, measles and wildlife-livestock conflicts. In contrast the name Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources is generic, flat and obvious, it does not connect the new institution to its tradition, it does not say anything about the old station, Mahalapye, and actually it does not pronounce any aspiration for the future. It is like any other name. Do we want to be any other university, or a unique university, a centre of excellence?

In other countries, who experimented with University of Agriculture had to change to some other names to make those universities relevant to their clients, the students. I recently met a Nigerian professor at a conference in Nairobi and he told me that some of the old agricultural universities are considering introducing medicine, in a quest to attract students.

Though earlier on I indicated that the works of the university are important, however, the name is vital for marketing and a name that is difficult to pronounce or difficult to sell may become obscure to the clients. The name is important for branding. These days, visibility and branding is what sells. The name is the face of the product and our product here is going to be the university.

In this competitive world, the new university can not afford not to compete. I know that the power-that-be are pursuing a rationalization policy in human resources development. In that light it may be said that the university should be solely agricultural and not compete with either UB or BIUST.

This would results in two disadvantages. The first would be that of lower enrolments due to marginalisation of agriculture as a career amongst our youth. Secondly we may be missing on an opportunity to integrate all facets of tertiary education into moulding a holistic and wholesome responsible citizen.

The world is not compartmentalised into science, humanities, arts and so forth. Human beings are interfaced with the arts, life sciences, earth sciences, linguistics, religion and the rest. And it has been proven that students with a balance exposure to both the arts and science are better innovators. By not pronouncing agriculture in its name, the university may in the future be able to offer programmes and course on business and entrepreneurship.

Therefore, if the new university allow for future expansion into commerce and trade, management, business, finance and ICT programmes, then there would be opportunities for the university to attract the non-traditional agriculture students.

Take Tebogo for instance, hypothetically speaking but a possibility, s/he ignorantly tells him/herself that s/he does not like agriculture, but still enrol at Peo University to do her/his passionate program, business. During she/his progress s/he may then decide to take an elective in horticulture and this may results in a horticultural businessperson when s/he graduate. Through this, the university would have achieved what had eluded BCA for two decades; producing agribusiness people.

So my contention is that the university should be allowed, funds permitting, to compete with UB, BUIST, Botho and Ba Isago. Of course the core mandate will still remain agriculture, that is given, but the university should not be bottled from growing by confining it only to agriculture and natural resource. After all, the secondary industries of milling, of leather, of food wholesale and retail, of timber, of recreation and leisure  involve commerce, business and entrepreneurship and should not be divorced from the primary industries  of land, cattle, sheep, goats, crops, forestry, wildlife, wetlands.

The future of agriculture is also anchored on ICT and as the youth prefers ICT related careers, internet agriculture platforms would results in expansion of extension, business and market information. So students at the new university should have the opportunity to take computer science programmes to allow them to innovate in agriculture. We recently, at Department of Animal Science and Production had a seminar talk by the founders of Modisar livestock management system. Modisar has been making news in the media as a youthful innovation, ICT based agricultural company which is incubated at Botswana Innovation Hub.

They told us that after assembling and testing the ICT livestock management platform, they realise that they lack skills in livestock management to fully derive the benefits of the platform. So as parliament will soon be discussing the bill on turning BCA into a university, I challenge members of the house to pause and think, engage their mind as to whether Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources is a name suitable for this premier institution or are we still stuck with Block 6, Phase 2 when Gaborone city council moving away from that mentality and giving proper names to its suburbs.

*ORM is a professor of animal nutrition at Botswana College of Agriculture and views expressed here are solely of the author and does not represent BCA. The limited version of this article first appeared in The Business Weekly & Review in 2014

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021


This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi:

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media.

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021


The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media.

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