Botho & Vision 2016

The word 'Botho' is derived from Tswana, the national language of Botswana. The Botswana people use the term botho to describe a person who has a well-rounded character, who is well-mannered, courteous and disciplined, and realises his or her full potential both as an individual and as a part of the community to which he or she belongs. Botho is an example of a social contract of mutual respect, responsibility and accountability that members of society have toward each other and defines a process for earning respect by first giving it, and to gain empowerment by empowering others.

Accordingly, botho is a principle very appropriate for a Graduate School committed to providing life-long learning opportunities and to educating tomorrow's leaders as it is for the national development. Botswana’s Economic and Social Development Agenda is based upon five national principles, which are: Democracy, Development, Self-Reliance, Unity, and botho. Botswana's Vision 2016 acknowledges botho as one of the tenets of African culture: "It encourages people to applaud rather than resent those who succeed. It disapproves of anti-social, disgraceful, inhuman and criminal behaviour, and encourages social justice for all. Botho as a concept must stretch to its utmost limits the largeness of the spirit of all Batswana. It must permeate every aspect of our lives, like the air we breathe, so that no Motswana will rest easy knowing that another is in need. The five principles are derived from Botswana’s cultural heritage, and are designed to promote social harmony, or kagisano. They set the broader context for the objectives of national development, which are: Sustained Development, Rapid Economic Growth, Economic Independence, Social Justice. Botho must be central to education, to home and community life, to the workplace, and to national policy."

Botho or Ubuntu (in the Zulu language) is a philosophy that promotes the common good of society and includes humanness as an essential element of human growth. In African culture the community always comes first. The individual is born out of and into the community, therefore will always be part of the community. Interdependence, communalism, sensitivity towards others and caring for others are all aspects of ubuntu as a philosophy of life (Le Roux). The community and belonging to a community is part of the essence of traditional African life. Philosophy of life and Philosophy of Education, thus, go together, because a philosophy of life helps to identify the goals and purposes that a particular society holds dear. Humanness is very important in African philosophy in the sense of seeing human needs, interests and dignity as fundamental to human existence. Nobody is born with botho or ubuntu – these are communally accepted and desirable ethical standards that a person acquires throughout his/her life and therefore education also plays a very important role in transferring the African philosophy of life (Letseka). [from: “The Notion of Ubuntu and Communalism in African Educational Discourse”, Elza Venter].

In the context of education, "Thuto" is another important word in Setswana. It is related to the verbs "go ruta" (to teach), and "go ithuta" (to learn), and is usually now translated "education" or "learning". It appears in the University of Botswana motto, "Thuto ke thebe" (see chart below): literally "Education is a Shield", perhaps with an echo of "Knowledge is Power". More on the Botswana academic web-site

See also: Contacts of UB's Research CentresUbuntu (philosophy) at Wikipedia; Botswana academic web-site

The "Man and the Beast" depict the spirit of a fundraising campaign spearheaded by the late President Sir Seretse Khama in 1976. The campaign, formally known as the Botswana University Campus Appeal (BUCA), or motho le motho kgomo, was launched to raise money for the construction of the Botswana Campus of the University of Botswana and Swaziland (UBS).


BUCA followed in the wake of a unilateral nationalisation of a joint-university campus facility in Roma (then the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland UBLS, established in 1966) by the Lesotho government. The campaign galvanised our national culture of philanthropy and the spirit of self-reliance. Batswana and other stakeholders made contributions of all types (including cattle, cash, grain, eggs, etc.) towards accomplishing the set target of one million rand. This is the root of the University of Botswana, which subsequently was established on the 1st July 1982.