University of Botswana History

University of Botswana History


The opening of the University of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland (UBBS) on January 1, 1964 was the outcome of an agreement reached in the mid-1962 between the High Commission Territories and the Oblate of Mary Immaculate of Pius XII Catholic University, Roma, Lesotho.

Pius XII College of Roma, which is 35 kilometres from Maseru, was itself the product of a desire for an institution of higher learning for Africans by a Catholic Church hierarchy in southern Africa. It opened its doors to students in 1946, with five students and five priest-lecturers. In 1950, it was taken over by the Catholic Order of the Oblate of Mary Immaculate.

By 1963, there were 180 students, both men and women, and several buildings, including a science block, refectory, administration complex and workshops. Courses at Pius XII College were taught and examined under a special relationship entered into in 1955 with the University of South Africa, which awarded students degrees and diplomas in Science, Commerce and Education.

Pius XII College experienced difficulties over finance for the expanding institution and over racial restrictions on the student residences as required by the University of South Africa. Negotiations with the High Commission Territories to transform the University College into a fully-fledged university were initiated during 1962.

University of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland (UBBS)On June 13, 1963, a deed of cession and indemnity was signed by the Oblates and the High Commissioner of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland. The new University, with Ford Foundation and British government funds, purchased the assets of the Roma Campus for an indemnity of half of its value, in exchange for guarantees of a continuing Catholic presence on the campus.

From a total of 188 students in 1964, the University grew to 402 students in 1970, of whom 145 were from Lesotho, with lesser numbers from Swaziland, Botswana, Rhodesia, South Africa and elsewhere. UBLS conferred its first degrees in April 1967 after a transitional period during which the former Pius XII College students continued to take University of South Africa degrees.

UBLS offered its own four-year undergraduate degrees and diplomas in Arts (including Economics and Administration), Science and Education, and Law students following a five-year degree, including a two-year tuition period at the University of Edinburgh.

Students seeking specialised degrees in Medicine, Engineering, etc, proceeded to other universities after completing Part I (Years 1 and 2) studies in Science. The number of academic staff grew from 31 in 1964 to 78 in 1970. Staff was recruited from many countries, but the University pursued an active localisation policy from 1971.

UBLS was equally funded by the Governments of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, but had comparatively little physical presence in Botswana and Swaziland in the first phase of its existence during 1964-1970.

The only substantial devolution of UBLS from Roma Campus came towards the end of this phase of University development and was the association of the Swaziland Agricultural College of Luyengo with the University, as the Swaziland Agricultural College and University Centre. This College, built for the Swaziland Government with Oxfam and ‘Freedom from Hunger’ funds, had been opened in 1966. In 1970, the Swazi Government agreed to hand over the College to UBLS, together with the Research Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and its experimental station at Malkerns near Luyengo. From 1972, these together constituted a new Faculty of Agriculture.

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In Botswana, the UBLS presence was limited to the energies of the Division of Extra- Mural Services and the School of Education, and a small Short-Course Centre built during 1969.

With independence, the three countries began to take a closer look at the colonial inheritance of education, including their joint University, and began to identify the role of UBLS in higher and middle-level training.

A series of academic planning reports for UBLS produced after 1966 culminated in the second Alexander Report of 1970, which combined, ‘the major recommendations of previous reports for the development of university campuses in each country and the unified development of higher education and vocational and teacher training’. The report recommended that Part I studies begin in Botswana and Swaziland, with eventual division of Part II (Year 2 and 4) studies among the campuses, and the consideration of ‘polytechnic’ arrangements for technical and vocational courses.

1971 – 1976

The second Alexander Report was accepted by the University and by the governments of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland at a meeting in October 1970 on the Luyengo campus. It heralded the second phase (1971-1976) of UBLS development.

Plans were immediately drawn up to spend about one million rands for campus development in each of the three countries. In Botswana and Swaziland there were to be campuses respectively within the capital of Gaborone, and at Kwaluseni adjacent to the national high school of Matsapha. Funds were obtained from the United States, British, Canadian, Danish and Netherlands governments as well as from the governments of UBLS countries, the Anglo American Corporation and other bodies.

Teaching of Part I began and temporary accommodation at Gaborone and Kwaluseni campuses became fully operational in 1973. In Swaziland, the William Pitcher and Nazarene Teacher Training Colleges were affiliated to the local university centre, as were the Francistown, Lobatse and Serowe Teacher Training Colleges in Botswana.

Plans for specialised Part II and professional studies on each campus were dramatically advanced by the devolution of Part II Humanities teaching to Gaborone and Kwaluseni, as well as Roma, in 1974. Further negotiations between the three governments and the University resulted in agreement on June 11, 1975, known as the ‘Luyengo Package’ which was accepted by all parties.

Following student unrest at Roma, and strained relations between the central UBLS administration and the Lesotho government over implementation of the ‘Luyengo Package’, the Roma campus was precipitately withdrawn from UBLS and constituted as the National University of Lesotho (NUL) on Monday October 20, 1975. This occurred at a time when a working group on further devolution of UBLS into three university colleges was preparing its report for the Council of the University.

The nationalisation of all facilities, monies and files in Lesotho meant the central administration of UBLS could operate with only limited effectiveness from premises at Malkerns during 1975-1976, and considerable autonomy was devolved onto the Botswana and Swaziland campuses.

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University of Botswana and Swaziland (UBS)

Students from Botswana and Swaziland were immediately withdrawn from the Roma campus on the appropriation of all UBLS property in Lesotho by NUL. Part II teaching for students was resumed within a few months in Botswana (Economics and Social Studies and Science) and in Swaziland (Law).

Following the acceptance of the Hunter Report and further negotiations between the University and the governments of Botswana and Swaziland, the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS) transformed into the University of Botswana and Swaziland (UBS), with two constituent University Colleges of Botswana and Swaziland (UCB and UCS respectively).

The new University structure was dedicated to maintaining and intensifying service to the ideals previously laid-out for UBLS by the Botswana and Swaziland governments. The ideals were summed up in the Second National Development Plan of Swaziland, which saw UBS as playing an ‘increasingly important role in National Development, not only through the provision of the educated manpower needed, but also through the university’s great potential as a focus for the academic and cultural activities of the nation.’

The ideals were also identified as the beginning of the devolution phase of UBS development into Botswana and Swaziland by the then Chancellor, Seretse Khama, in his graduation speech of May 1970, on the Luyengo campus:

“The University must be a committed institution, committed to the fulfillment of the ambitions and aspirations of the communities it was created to serve. One of these is rapid development, another is non-racialism, and the third is simply pride in ourselves and in our past, which in turn would lead to a greater degree of self confidence, which is one of the very basic ingredients of true independent nationhood.”

University of Botswana – 1982

The years 1976 and 1982 saw both constituent colleges of the University develop their physical resources and their academic programmes in close cooperation with each other, with a view to the eventual establishment of separate national universities on the July 1, 1982. The formal inauguration of the University of Botswana was performed on October 23, 1982 by His Excellency Sir Ketumile Masire, President of the Republic of Botswana.

The University of Botswana and Swaziland continued to cooperate to December 31, 1982 for the purpose of examining and awarding degrees, diplomas and certificates. The governments of Botswana and Swaziland, the National Universities in Botswana and Swaziland continue to exchange students and to cooperate in certain areas and to that end a consultative machinery has been set up to advise on how best to cooperate for the mutual benefit of the two universities.