The University of Botswana must leverage its status as a premier institution of higher learning in Botswana to help the country adequately address challenges precipitated by the fourth industrial revolution, says Professor Sesae Mpuchane
Professor Mpuchane is a former Head of the Department of Biological Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Botswana. She was speaking at the graduation ceremony of the faculties of Medicine, Science, Health Sciences, Engineering and Technology on October 11, 2019.
The theme for the graduation was Education for economic diversification: Towards the fourth industrial revolution.
Professor Mpuchane said the theme was more apt in that it was coming at a time when Batswana had to contend with numerous challenges, locally and globally. However, she observed that advances in technology presented numerous solutions and challenges to, among others, impacts of climate change which were becoming a threat to livelihoods.
Consequently, she said as the country entered the fourth industrial revolution faced with such challenges, there was a greater demand for the University of Botswana to fully participate in quality education that served as a sound foundation for research and innovation.
“We need, more than ever before, to provide a conducive technology driven environment in our institutions of learning and innovation in order to thrive and to diversify the economy,” said Professor Mpuchane.
She added “our education must be purposeful. Our policies and commitments must be enabling, genuine and sustained and must embrace and harness the human resource potential that lies in this country”.
She reckoned innovation as another tool through which to address problems of unemployment and that in that sense young learners would, therefore, demand to have a say in what they were taught.
As such, noted Professor Mpuchane, teaching and learning must undergo a dramatic change as Botswana moved into the next phase. In addition, teachers must equally adapt swiftly and get themselves prepared and relevant, she advised.
Professor Mpuchane said educators would have to develop appropriate skills to support the needs of society and of industry but more than ever before, industry must have a say in how and what educators teach in line with sound socio-economic principles and business efficiencies.
“Our learners must, therefore, leave our educational institutions well prepared, with clear objectives of how they can translate what they have learnt into useful products. We need to work on our curriculum so that it is informed by our present and future needs and it is practical and forms a basis for a sound education system to serve our research activities,” she said.
She added that curricula must be based on digital literacy and key elements must include applications of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and emotional intelligence. Professor Mpuchane also underscored the importance of affordable data and digitally smart learning spaces and workplaces. Further, learners must move away from descriptive outputs to analytical applications of Mathematics and Science.
She also said continuous upgrading of teachers especially in their applications of new technologies must be prioritised. To assist Scientists to translate their results into products, Professor Mpuchane said it was important that institutions created commercialisation wings with skilled personnel in areas such as IP, law, marketing and business in general. She encouraged learning institutes to include entrepreneurship in their curricula to prepare their graduates adequately.