The Botswana Campus of the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS): 1971 Student Cohort and Subsequent Opportunity for a National University in Botswana

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Motsoptse Phillip Modisi


The University of Botswana’s Undergraduate Academic Calendar, 2023/24 includes a ‘historical note’
that makes scant mention of the establishment of the Botswana Campus in 1971 (University of Botswana,
2023:11). This article is intended to fill the gap in the narrative about the initiation of the Botswana Campus
of the University of Botswana Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS). It is written from the author’s memory as
a member of the 1971/72 cohort with input by some peers at the UBLS Botswana Campus. The Campus
formed the foundation for the establishment of the University of Botswana (UB) and its subsequent
development. These memories are augmented by content derived from published sources and unpublished
documents to provide a context and meaning to the history of UB. The UBLS Botswana Campus was
established following a decision by the Governing Council in 1970, to devolve the University and establish
a physical presence of infrastructure, buildings, staff and students to a new campus in Botswana and add to
existing facilities in Swaziland (Vernon-Jackson 1973:199). Establishing the Campus was a race against
time, and presented a host of challenges, including procuring accommodation and facilities, recruiting
staff, beginning the construction of infrastructure on a virgin site, registering and managing new students.
Although no campus premises for teaching and accommodation existed, postponing the beginning of the
1971/72 academic year was not an option. Qualified school leavers were waiting and could not miss the
academic programmes for that year. Keeping pace and maintaining established standards of programmes
at the other two campuses in Lesotho and Swaziland was imperative. The Governments of Botswana and
Swaziland demonstrated full support for the Council decision, hence the implementation in establishing the
new campus in Gaborone. The Lesotho Government, however, was a reluctant participant in the devolution
exercise (Mokgopakgosi 2013:467). All along, Lesotho had enjoyed the prestige of hosting the University
and the status of a senior campus and administrative headquarters.

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