Mmegi Online :: Professor Bentil is Lesedi
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Last Updated
Friday 16 November 2018, 13:42 pm.
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Professor Bentil is Lesedi

PALAPYE: Stereotypes come and go, but the one about Palapye and sharing beats them all. People in Palapye are said to share everything, including even a can of beer.
By Staff Writer Sun 18 Nov 2018, 23:37 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Professor Bentil is Lesedi








It appears Professor Kweku Bentil, the founding head of the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) in Palapye, is being baptized into the spirit of sharing that prevails here.

Professor Bentil has been christened Lesedi, a beautiful name that translates into "Light" or "Beacon", and it is possible he is going to meet a lot of Lesedis in the streets of Palapye.

Kgosi Klaas Motshidisi says a meeting was called at the kgoatla at which the tribe suggested Setswana names for the professor.

"They ended up settling for Lesedi," Motshidisi says. "People had suggested many other names, but we settled for Lesedi. It is a beautiful name, more so because this is the man that has been tasked with bringing education to Botswana."

Professor Bentil really wears his new name on the sleeve of his shirt as demonstrated at his meeting with councillors of the City of Francistown where he had gone to brief the councillors about progress being made in the construction of the institution last Thursday.

Without preamble, the professor let it be known that he is called Lesedi. "I was given this name by dikgosi in Botswana," said Bentil to a round of applause from the councillors, who thereafter referred to him by the new name.

"It feels so good. And by the way, I am a resident of Lotsane Ward in Palapye," Sixty-five year old Bentil, who was born in Ghana but spent most of his adult life in the United States going to school and working, is certainly most welcome here. "He is a leading member of our community," says Kgosi Motshidisi.

"I get to meet him a lot in activities that involve the community of Palapye.

He always consults us about progress being made in the construction of the school.

He graces our activities, including clean-up campaigns."

In America where he spent his adult life, Professor Bentil is not only a respected academic; he has got two scholarship awards to his name from the University of Florida.

They are Bentil's Master Student Award and Bentil's Doctoral Student Award. These are awarded to students who are exceptional in their areas of study, as well as in leadership and service.

In an interview with a University of Florida (UF) campus publication, Bentil called his recruitment to BIUST "the biggest challenge" of his career. "It is the biggest challenge I have ever taken on in my life," he says.

"Building a university from scratch ... from nothing. All the different aspects of

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it - the physical construction, the human resources, getting the curriculum set up."

But with a background in civil engineering, construction, teaching and educational administration, he believes he is up to the task of creating the $1.5 billion, 6,250-acre campus in Palapye.

"Having a background in construction and engineering and in academics, it's a wonderful opportunity to put all those things together," he is quouted as saying. "The biggest motivation for me is making a difference.

I believe by doing this I'm going to make a difference in the lives of people for many, many years to come."

Asked then about the differences between the university he is building and the ones he has attended in America and England, the professor says the biggest difference is that graduates of BIUST will approach life from a holistic perspective.

"Students who graduate with degrees in engineering, science and technology will have a very broad background in business, management, entrepreneurship, human relations - those kind of skills," he told the campus news publication.

Lectureship positions at the university are currently being advertised in Botswana, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

Interviews are conducted by a committee comprising the Dean of the College of Agriculture, a professor from the University of Botswana, a retired professor of engineering from UB, two BIUST council members from South Africa, and Professor Bentil himself.

"Interviews are conducted to select the best candidates from which the very best candidate is employed," he says. As for the culture shock that presumably hit the professor and his family, Bentil quips:

"When you think of Africa, you think it's a jungle and all that, and you get here and it's fully developed. There are five-star hotels, good roads, good restaurants, shops and malls.

It's not as backward as people seem to think it is. It won't be much of a culture shock at all."

Professor Bentil started his new job in September 2008.

Bridget John of the Education Hub said then that the appointment of Professor Bentil was a deliberate one as they wanted BIUST to be headed by a highly qualified and internationally experienced individual.

"First of all, from the applicants we got, it was realised that the citizen applicants did not fully satisfy the requirements needed," John was quoted as having said.

"The desire is to see BIUST producing the best graduates and that could be achieved through attracting the best experienced personnel. Professor Bentil has what is needed to achieve that."

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