| OUR HISTORY
In today's global economy, a graduate has an abundance of courses to choose from and a multitude of career paths to follow. Whatever career path you choose to pursue, give yourself a competitive advantage with BA ISAGO University as your preferred choice for tertiary education. BA ISAGO University offers credible market driven and internationally recognized programmes that prepare learners for the global job market.
“We noted the need for more institutions of higher learning in Botswana. That’s when BA ISAGO University College was born in 2002 – out of extreme challenges and possibilities.”
Odirile Gabasiane, Founder
| 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 made its humble beginnings then. The inceptual registration at its first campus in Francistown comprised of a paltry 50 students. The institution’s Founder and Managing Director, Odirile B. 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.
Too much 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 the northern parts of Botswana and who could welcome an institution by the door step. We wanted to cater for them as part of the broader society of this country.” The University has fundamentally re-aligned its strategic orientation and curriculum to address today’s pertinent human capital development demands and expectations.
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 beginning.
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 flows.“Typical of all the banks they were not willing to fund us,” says Gabasiane. “As a start-up enterprise in education, we had an unproven concept and no track record to boast of.”
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 in 2006, Peo divested as per its modus operandi.
“We will forever remain indebted to Peo Holdings for making it possible for us to grow and flourish,” says Gabasiane. “Without their partnership at a most critical hour of need, we wouldn’t be where we are today. This has always been the nemesis to all big time dreamers and visionaries in this country”
| Reaching for the Stratosphere
In time, BA ISAGO established its second Campus at Gaborone’s BBS Mall. This was in 2005. The Gaborone Campus boosted its student enrolment to 300, largely relying on privately sponsored in-service trainees. In 2007, the Gaborone Campus relocated to Commerce Park where upon coincided with Government’s decision to start sponsoring students in home-grown private tertiary education institutions. This gesture by Government was a shot in the arm for BA ISAGO, which saw its student population soar dramatically to 890. Thus far,
BA ISAGO had operated in rented premises. Management then decided it was time the institution had its own permanent home. This became a reality in April 2012 when it moved to its own purpose-built facility in Block 7. The construction of its own facility enabled it to more than treble the enrolment to a total of 3000, inclusive of the student population at its Francistown Campus.
The Block 7 infrastructure was to evolve in phases. Phase I is already complete. Phase II consists of a Convention Centre with the capacity to accommodate up to 3000 people, a Pavilion with ample space for about 300 people, a recreational facility, and still to be built six storey building with office space, laboratories, lecture rooms and an auditorium. Phase II is already 60 percent complete. The total capital outlay is budgeted at P430 million.When Phase II is complete, BA ISAGO will be able to enroll 5600 students in Gaborone alone and will have a staff complement of close to 400. BA ISAGO has now acquired a 28-hectare plot at Gerald Estate, Francistown and an 11 hectare plot in Maun, where it intends to build its own campuses.
Gabasiane fundamentally doffs his hat to Government for making it possible for private institutions of higher learning to thrive in the country. “The advent of home-grown, private tertiary education institutions has been of huge benefit to Batswana. We strive to produce students who can compete globally, yet have education grounded in the context ideal to Botswana. We appreciate our relationship with Government, which sponsors students to attend BA ISAGO University.”
| A University with Full Stripes
In June 2015, BA ISAGO, which is hundred percent citizen owned, was conferred full university status after operating as a University College for 13 years. It applied for University Status in 2012 after meeting all the requisite criteria. The institution has since expanded and enhanced its facilities, human capital and research outputs. It now has three Campuses operating in Gaborone, Francistown and Maun, deliberately and consciously attempting to reach out to many other prospective learners out there who are already disadvantaged by the long distances to Gaborone.
BA ISAGO has four Faculties. These are the Faculty of Commerce, offering over 33 courses; the Faculty of Education, offering 8 courses; the Faculty of the Built Environment, Arts and Sciences offering 8 courses; and the Faculty of Law and Para-legal Studies, offering 6 courses. Altogether, the four Faculties offer just under 60 courses comprising of Masters Degree programmes; 28 Bachelor’s Degree programmes; 14 Diploma programmes; 2 Professional Qualifications; and 10 Certificate programmes. Some of the degree and diploma programmes are run in collaboration with internationally renowned institutions such as the University of South Africa (UNISA), the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Zimbabwe.
In addition, in October 2008, BA ISAGO established The Centre for Research, Entrepreneurship and Project Management (CREPM) which transformed itself in 2016 as The Centre for Entrepreneurship and Professional Development (CEPD) running a total of 45 short-term learning courses across a whole spectrum of disciplines offered through conferences, short-term training, seminars, workshops to corporate business organizations, Government, parastatals, NGOs, civil society, and private individuals.
The institution has just set up another Faculty, the School of Graduate Studies and Research which will be devoted to running Masters and PhD programmes. The institution boasts an array of very well-qualified lecturers at Masters, PhD and recently Professional levels and is increasingly gaining a reputation as well paying private institution of learning in Botswana, with the competitive remuneration packages.
| The Visionary Who Conceived It All
Odirile Gabasiane attended the University of Botswana, where he graduated in 1986. After teaching History and English at Moeng College, his alma mater where him and his wife, Ruth Tsetsane were both Departmental Heads, he joined the diplomatic service as an Education Attache at the Botswana High Commission in London in 1990.
“My role at the High Commission was to place and look after Batswana students in institutions of higher learning in the UK, Ireland, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand who were pursuing various programmes ranging from diplomas, first degrees up to postgraduate studies,” he says.Gabasiane made quite a mark. During the seven years he was in London, student enrolment rose from over 300 to 3000.
In 1997, he was transferred to Pretoria, South Africa to establish the Office of an Education Attache, following the dawn of a new political dispensation in that country, which had seen Nelson Mandela ascend to the reigns of power as the first democratically elected President in 1994. Again, the numbers rose exponentially. In the space of only two years, student enrolment grew tenfold from 300 to over 3000. Whilst in Pretoria, Gabasiane was not only placing students sponsored by Government, but also assisted privately sponsored students.
In 1999, Government terminated the Tirelo Sechaba Programme (TSP), whereby high school leavers did one year of compulsory community service to gain out-of- school experience in the many sectors of the public service before proceeding to tertiary level education. A perspicacious Gabasiane promptly began to weigh options to exploit this highly tantalising opportunity.
“When Government announced that TSP would end, my wife and I saw a business opportunity to provide service to Government. We knew the capacity for placing students would be a massive challenge for Government and with our background as educators in the diplomatic service and our own passion to develop young people, we decided to go for it hammer and tongs. That’s how BA ISAGO Institute was born, running from 1999-2001.”
Gabasiane indeed calculated correctly. At the end of 1999, there was a deluge of a backlog of students who needed placement. They numbered upwards of 6000. BA ISAGO offered student placement services, career guidance and counseling to high school leavers, and tuition services for A-Levels, IGCSE, and BGCSE students. It also held Education Career Fairs for institutions of higher learning from across the SADC region which “created a platform for students to connect with institutions and get exposed to the scope of possibilities for career prospects”.
The BA ISAGO initiative was noted far and wide. At one point, 57 institutions from within the region converged at Boipuso Hall to showcase their credentials before thousands of prospective students.Then suddenly, Government pulled the plug. It stopped using external placement agents anywhere, opting instead to deploy its own personnel both locally and at its missions abroad to fulfill the same role BA ISAGO had been playing.
The goose that laid the golden eggs had been strangled. Regrets Gabasiane: “This decision was made abruptly without due consideration for the survival of our business as well as our interests. We had no prior warning and no fall-back position. It was a huge setback which left us crippled and with huge liabilities as the cash cow of our revenues went up in smoke.” But BA ISAGO wasn’t giving up the ghost yet. Gabasiane and his wife Ruth, thought long and hard and decided to reinvent BA ISAGO.
“We decided to turn our new business challenges into opportunities. We knew that even though so many of our students were going to South Africa, the long-term sustainability of exporting students was still questionable. We noted the need for more institutions of higher learning in Botswana. That’s when BA ISAGO University College was born in 2002 – out of extreme challenges and possibilities.”
Gabasiane salutes three parties for helping him make BA ISAGO the reputable and viable institution it is today. They are his wife Ruth, the BA ISAGO Board Chairperson, for “being a pillar through the years and for not being one to stand on the sides but one is willing to get her hands dirty and make things happen”; other Shareholders “who happen to be family and who have been supportive through all these trials and tribulations and stayed on when others abandoned us”; and other stakeholders such as BQA, HRDC, sponsors such as Government, parents, and employers across the board, and students themselves “for supporting and believing in our project which has now become a national vehicle in the promotion and enhancement of human capital development in Botswana and beyond”.