First step towards the dream
BA ISAGO University began as a university college in 2002. It was registered by the Botswana Training Authority (now Botswana Qualifications Authority) in June 2004 and was granted institutional accreditation by the Tertiary Education Council (now Human Resource Development Council) in 2006.
Starting at a time when tertiary education outside government institutions was not as mainstream as it is today, BA ISAGO had a dismally humble beginning. The inceptual registration at its first campus in Francistown comprised of a paltry 50 students. The institution’s founder and Managing Director Odirile Gabasiane admits it was untypical for a high-aiming institution of learning to first set up in the country’s second city when everything was happening in the capital Gaborone. But to Gabasiane, this state of affairs was the very spur.
“The focus on Gaborone was what impelled us to establish in Francistown. There were a lot of people who were in need of tertiary education in northern Botswana and who could welcome a near-at-hand institution. We wanted to cater for them.”
Initially, BA ISAGO was confronted with two major challenges. The first one was finding premises that met the standards of a university college. As a fledgling institution, BA ISAGO did not have ample financial resources to build its own facility from the get-go.
The other challenge was the wherewithal to help it expand, grow and put in place the requisite educational infrastructure. The banks were not prepared to touch BA ISAGO with a barge pole. At the time, government hadn’t yet begun to enroll government sponsored students on a full-time basis in locally-based private institutions of learning and so the banks were reluctant to extend credit to institutions which solely relied on privately sponsored students for their cash flow.
“The banks were not willing to fund us,” says Gabasiane. “As a start-up enterprise in education, we had an unproven concept and no long-term track record.”
It was Peo Holdings, a business loans advance company owned by De Beers and Debswana, which promoted enterprise development, that came to BA ISAGO’s rescue. Peo partnered with BA ISAGO in a joint venture arrangement. The partnership dramatically boosted the sustainability of the institution. When BA ISAGO was able to stand on its own feet financially, Peo divested as per its modus operandi.
“We will forever be indebted to Peo Holdings for making it possible for us to burgeon and flourish,” says Gabasiane. “Without their partnership at a most critical hour of need, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”