Engineering global citizens

Botswanan students sponsored to study at Queen’s

Kasigo I. Dintwe, Sci ’14, says he likes the new learning experience at Queen’s.
Kasigo I. Dintwe, Sci ’14, says he likes the new learning experience at Queen’s.

The government of Botswana has sponsored 10 of the nation’s best and brightest students to come to Queen’s.

The students will spend the next four years studying in Kingston while they obtain their engineering degrees. Kagiso I. Dintwe, Sci ’14, known to his friends as Tsofi, arrived in Kingston in August. He said he completed two years of courses towards a Bachelors of Science degree at the University of Botswana to qualify for Engineering at Queen’s.

“Without engineering we wouldn’t have this,” he said, pointing to the Queen’s Centre. “It’s something that I want to get involved with, and of course the money is good.”

The program is run through World University Services Canada (WUSC), an organization that funds education for students in developing countries by establishing networks between Canadian universities and those in the global south.

Acceptance into WUSC’s Botswana Student Program depends both on academic marks and a formal interview. When Dintwe heard he had been accepted into the program, he said he was ecstatic. “I was hoping to come. I really wanted to do it and I put a lot of effort into my application, and I think that came out in the interview,” he said.

Though given a few choices of Canadian universities to attend, Dintwe chose Queen’s because of the Department of Mining Engineering’s reputation and because the program is not offered at his home university in Botswana.

Upon arrival, Dintwe and the other nine students were welcomed by the Faculty of Applied Science with a five-day-long orientation that introduced the students to Kingston and the Queen’s community and aided them with matters such as course selection and housing. “The orientation tried to teach us how Canadians live. I especially enjoyed the kayaking activity,” he said.

Now in the second week of classes, Dintwe said the core curriculum at the University of Botswana is quite similar to the one at Queen’s, and this has enabled him to transfer credits over. He said the teaching style differs from at the University of Botswana.

“Queen’s is hard. There’s a lot more assignments than back home, but it’s a new learning experience,” he said.

The Botswana Student Program aims to provide students with the skills and knowledge to allow them to one day go back to their communities and make a positive change.

For Dintwe, and most of the other students at Queen’s on this program, this will be in the diamond industry.

“Botswana is the largest producer of diamonds in Africa, and it accounts for almost 70 per cent of our economy,” he said. “Essentially diamonds are forever, and we have a lot of diamonds.” Dintwe said he plans on visiting his family in Botswana in two years, and although he has found adapting to Canadian culture quite easy and the people friendly and welcoming, he said he does intend to return to Botswana once his degree is complete.

“The program is an investment in me, so that our country can see results,” he said.

Anna Popovic, first-year program associate in the faculty of applied science, said the Botswanan students have been coming for several years but that the faculty-organized orientation week for the Botswanan students was a new event this year.

“Orientation was really about trying to nurture a support network that the students would have for the next four years,” Popovic said.

Obviously the students were a bit overwhelmed at first, Popovic said, but they now seem to have adjusted to the homework load.

“We tried to help ease the transition into Queen’s academic life. These are such great kids. I think they would be great role models to a lot of our students,” she said.

Marc Epprecht, acting head of global development studies said this program is widely accepted as a good thing.

Epprecht said that Botswana is generally considered to be a middle-income country because of the dominant diamond industry, and while some solid investments in infrastructure and education have been made, educational opportunities are still quite basic when you compare them to those at a place like Queen’s.

Epprecht said programs like this don’t always help the home country if the students don’t bring what they’ve learned back home. “There needs to be structures in place to make sure that these people being educated go back to their home countries in the end,” Epprecht said. “There have been a lot of cases where Canada is benefiting from people deciding not to return to their home countries, and this comes at the expense of development in the global south.”

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