Botswana Embassy Officials Visit WIU
May 28, 2013
MACOMB, IL -- "WIU did not put out the red carpet for me and my delegation ... they put out the purple carpet, and in my country, purple is the color of royalty!" ... Her Excellency Ambassador Ms. Tebelelo Seretse of the Republic of Botswana.
Seretse's concluding remarks came after a whirlwind two-day tour of Western Illinois University April 29-30, which included presentations, panel discussions, interviews, meetings and receptions with members of the campus and Macomb communities. Seretse, along with Mr. Barongwa Master Baipidi and Beatrice Selotlegeng, the director of Cardinal Health Junior Executive Business Programs for Minorities, and the assistant director of diversity and outreach at Ohio University in Athens, joined WIU President Jack Thomas and Rick Carter, executive director of the School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach, to continue discussions on educational partnerships and missions between WIU and the University of Botswana.
Carter recently returned from a 10-day educational mission to the country, where he worked with the Botswana Ministry of Education to visit with schools and colleges.
"It is truly a privilege to represent Western Illinois University in Botswana. The people and organizations that I have met are extremely warm and friendly, with a strong desire to build educational bridges with Western," Carter said. "We have made much progress during these meetings and I have high expectations."
In March 2012, Carter, and LEJA Professor John "Jack" Schafer spent 10 days in Botswana, and Thomas and Carter visited with Republic of Botswana Embassy officials in Washington, D.C. in November 2012. As a result of these visits, both Seretse and Carter noted the strong partnership between Western and the southern African country.
"Dr. Carter's visits and his interest in our country has endeared Botswana to WIU," Her Excellency added. "This partnership will help tell our story. The story that Botswana is a peaceful country full of opportunity that provides free education for all of its people. And one of the best ways to do this is to establish Memorandums-of-Understanding with highly-regarded institutions, such as Western Illinois University."
Carter and Seretse are working with the University of Botswana to establish student and faculty exchanges between the two schools. In addition, Western is participating in the country's "Adopt-A-School" initiative and will be working with educators from St. Joseph's (aka St. Joe's), a premier high school in Botswana's capital city of Gaborone (Ab-oh-roni).
"We can help one another. The youth of today are our leaders, and they must be culturally aware," said Selotlegeng. "Through exchange programs, we learn from one another, and we learn that we are all human beings first and foremost, with many of the same goals, aspirations and hopes."
Seretse noted that there are opportunities within several disciplines for exchanges, including law enforcement, agriculture and sustainability/environmental studies. Master Baipidi added that partnerships with institutions such as Western "are essential for a better world."
"Learning from one another builds further understanding," he said. "It's a win-win for everyone involved."
Miriam Brabham, a political science major from Macomb, is currently spending the spring semester studying at the University of Botswana. Carter met with Brabham during his April visit to the country.
"The lack of peace in our world is borne by the lack of tolerance and understanding. Exchange programs breed acceptance and tolerance, which in turn breed peace," Seretse added. "We need to stop thinking 'what is our right?' and ask 'what is our obligation?' By working with one another to further improve education and the lives of others, we make the world a far better place."
President Thomas noted that the delegation's visit to the Macomb campus serves not only to further enhance internationalization efforts, but provides even greater educational opportunities for WIU students and Botswanan students, as well as faculty and staff.
"It was an honor to host Her Excellency Tebelelo, Master B and Beatrice," he added. "We had the good fortune of meeting with Her Excellency in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Carter has had the privilege of representing Western in Botswana. We look forward to a longstanding partnership and relationship with Her Excellency, her delegates and the educators, officials and students of Botswana."