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A degree above the rest

Dr Goemeone Mogomotsi who holds eight degrees was recently promoted to Associate Professor and appointed a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Law, Faculty of Social Sciences at University of Botswana.

Dr Mogomotsi has attained the rank and title of Professor under the age of 35 years. He is also the first Motswana to be an Associate Professor of International Environmental Policy.

The 34-year-old Molapowabojang born prof was recently appointed a member of the commission of enquiry into the review of the constitution of Botswana.

Our reporter Portia Mlilo had a chat with this youngest male professor about his achievements and career future plans.

Q. What inspired you to have 8 degrees?
Interestingly it began unplanned. When I was doing third year studying towards my Bachelor of Laws (LLB), then Botswana College of Open and Distance Learning advertised for scholarships offered by the Government of India through the African Union to read for various programmes by Indian universities. I applied and was granted a bursary to read for the degree of Bachelor of Financial and Investment Analysis.

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That meant I was doing two-degree programmes simultaneously. When I completed my LLB, I applied to the University of South Africa (Unisa) for Master of Laws (LLM) in Commercial Law because I had no funding for fulltime studies. But just after I started with Unisa, I was admitted and granted part-bursary to go on fulltime studies at the University of the Western Cape to read towards LLM in International Trade, Business, and Investment Law.

When I was at the Western Cape, I had a chance to be taught by Dr Kenneth Kaoma Mwenda, working at the World Bank. At that time Dr Mwenda had two doctoral degrees and many other degrees. I asked myself that if someone from the neighbouring Zambia could achieve as much as he did, why couldn’t I? Upon my return from the Western Cape, I became twice lucky.

I applied for and was granted the Indian Government bursary to read for Master of Financial Management. It was around the same time when I started my PhD studies with the University of the Witwatersrand. When I started working for the University of Botswana in 2015, I decided to take advantage of the staff tuition waiver provision to read for Master of Public Administration (Public Policy & Administration) and subsequently Master of Development Studies.

Q. A lot of young people find it difficult to concentrate on their studies and get easily distracted. How do you manage?
Time management and planning are very important on everything, including during one’s studies. To those who are working and studying part-time, my advice is simple; dedicate not more than two hours a day towards your studies. When one is at dissertation or thesis writing stage, write one page a day. Think of it as twenty pages a month excluding weekends. That way, it does not feel overwhelming. You have time to do other things including spending time with your family but making real progress towards your schoolwork.

Q.What does it take for one to be an associate professor and how long did it take for you to attain the title?
There are two main tracks in academic cadre in the University of Botswana, being Teaching & Research Scholar (mainly found in the teaching departments in main campus) and Research Scholars who are found in the Okavango Research Institute in Maun. The research and publications requirements are slightly different. For teaching scholars one is required to have at least eight (8) journal articles. In the context of the Okavango Research Institute where I was promoted the requirement is that one should have at least eighteen (18) journal articles. The difference is attributed to the fact that there is no traditional teaching done by research scholars. Their primary role is to do research and publish.

I joined academia in October 2018 and applied for promotion in December 2019. That makes a year of meeting the requirements for promotion to the rank of Associate Professor. However, the road was bumpy and long due to the resistance of some, which ended in the High Court. The judgment relating to my promotion matter was granted in my favour on the 31st August 2021 directing the university to process my promotion as per the laid down procedure. I was subsequently promoted on the 30th of November 2021 following the rigorous external assessment.

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Q. You are the first Motswana to be an Associate Professor of International Environmental Policy, how does it feel and what does it mean to you?
It is recognition that with hard work and dedication you can become whatever you have always dreamt of. I am a testimony that Batswana and young Batswana are capable. I do not take the achievement lightly.

Kindly share a bit with our readers what Environmental Policy is all about? What are its objectives?
Environmental policy is an intersection of the fields of law, public policy analysis and environmental science. My work therefore entails the study of national and trans-boundary socio-economic, institutional, and political processes within the area of environmental management. It also relates to undertaking research into socio-political, economic and environmental issues surrounding national and international policies, conventions, agreements and protocols on national resources management.

Q. What do you enjoy most about being a researcher?
The flexibility of work and contribution to knowledge.

Q. How do you take care of yourself so you don’t burn out?
Contrary to perceptions held by many, I rest more hours than I am working. I believe in working smart as opposed to working hard. As I said earlier on, you need just two hours a day to make real progress either towards your studies or research.

Q. What challenges did you face in your studies?
In all honesty, not many. I just found it a bit challenging, not impossible, to balance coursework studies with family because classes ate out of my family time. But I am grateful to have a supportive wife who helped me carry the load so well.

Q. What can you say have been some of your greatest achievement in life?
I have had many notable achievements in life. However, meeting the requirements of Associate Professor is currently the greatest.

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Dr. Mogomotsi

Dr. Mogomotsi

Q You were recently appointed a member of the commission of enquiry into the review of the constitution of Botswana, what does that mean to you?
It is quite an honour for me to be entrusted with this historic responsibility. I am where I am because of what my country has done for me. I am humbled by the opportunity to serve it.

Q. What advice can you give to those aspiring to be professors?
They should believe in themselves and aim to place their research in high quality journal outlets that are often feared by many due to their high rejection rate. It is important to know and accept that rejection is part of the process; it is not a sign of failure.

Q. Away from work, who is Prof Mogomotsi?
I am a father to Goemeone Jr and Afa. I am a husband to their wonderful mother, Prof Patricia Kefilwe Mogomotsi.

Q. What are your future career and academic plans?
I have always dreamt of joining international development organisations such as the World Bank, United Nations, African Union, World Trade Organisation among others. Otherwise, in the next year or two, I hope to get the last promotion to the rank of Professor. Academic wise, I intend to complete another doctoral degree before reaching the age of 40.

Q. Who is your inspiration?
My family. When I was younger, I looked up to my parents whom I picked up the culture of reading from. My father is an avid newspaper reader and my mother as a teacher was always writing or reading something. My wife is an excellent scholar. I do not have to look further for inspiration.

Q. Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
To have my well deserved rest and spend time with my family.

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