The history of philanthropy surrounding the University of Botswana

The University of Botswana Foundation derives its inspiration from the 1976 visionary appeal for funds to set up a University Campus in Botswana. The effort, known as the Botswana University Campus Appeal (BUCA) was championed by one of the country’s founding fathers, Sir Seretse Khama, the first President of the Republic of Botswana. This national campaign for funds followed a unilateral nationalisation in 1975 of what was formerly a tripartite education institution known as the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, located at the Roma Campus in Lesotho. That action resulted in the withdrawal of students from Botswana and Swaziland, and intensified pressure to fast-track expansion plans for the small university campus in Botswana.

Although UBLS was equally funded by the Governments of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, comparatively it had little presence in Botswana and Swaziland during the first phase of its existence from 1964 to 1970. As a result, the 1975 nationalisation of the campus facility in Lesotho ushered in BUCA to make provisions to accommodate students expelled from Roma.

The BUCA initiative entailed cooperation at ministerial, council and local community levels. The campaign, code-named Motho le Motho Kgomo, which translates to One Man, One Beast (‘man’ to read generically) galvanised the traditional values of self-reliance and giving together with charitable organisations, the private sector (local and abroad), and Botswana’s bilateral partners into a force that generated a substantial amount of money for the erection of key university campus facilities in Gaborone, the Capital of Botswana. The appeal sought donations in cash or kind, livestock, grain or any other form of contribution, and was premised on a number of pillars – an appeal to the national spirit for a national university;  proof to aid donors and the rest of the world that in times of trouble Batswana can tap into their traditional value of self-reliance to build a national institution; educating Batswana on the importance of university; emphasis on the need for skilled manpower in a young democracy, so as to reduce reliance on expensive expatriate labour; the university as a service provider to the community; as well as an emotional national appeal. All rank and file participated and came forward with contributions, including donations by farmers, and people earning daily wages.

The moral behind the BUCA account is to demonstrate its seminal impact on the establishment of what is now known as the University of Botswana, and that giving is inherent within Botswana cultural values. This philanthropic event further inspired other major fundraising activities in the life of the institution, and has become the driving force behind the University’s fundraising arm, the University of Botswana Foundation.