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Articles Published in Botswana Mass Media on Russian-Botswana Relations

Mmegi
February 22, 2006

WE MUST EXPLOIT OPPORTUNITIES
OFFERED BY RUSSIA

Normally, the establishment of diplomatic ties between two countries is mainly for the mutual benefit of the involved partners. Often the resultant cooperation

is manifested through trade, and exchanges in the various sectors such as health, education, culture and arts, agriculture among others.

In a rather frank interview with this newspaper yesterday, the Russian Federation Ambassador to Botswana, Igor Liakin-Frolov poured his heart out when speaking with what appears to be a frustrating situation in enhancing and deepening the envisaged cooperation between the two countries. Botswana as a developing country can ill-afford to miss the opportunities offered by a developed country such as Russia.

We learnt from that interview that Batswana students are not eager to take

up study opportunities offered by the Russians. Several factors could be behind this seeming sad state of affairs. Besides the excuse of the cold northern climates, perhaps there could be also fears of having to grapple with a new language. But other countries such as Cuba (where Spanish is the first language), Mozambique and Angola (Portuguese) or Ethiopia (English and Amharic) have benefited a lot from the Russian educational system.

The other factor that discourages Batswana from studying in Russia could

be the traditional fixation with the English-speaking world. Here emphasis is placed on speaking good English than on the understanding of a given field of study. It is not far-fetched for most Batswana to think that one can only study a given profession

in English. Yet there are Russian, Chinese, German, Japanese, Cuban, Swedish, Danish, French doctors, chefs, journalists, engineers, professors, film-makers, musicians, accountants - you name it. And most of them can hardly speak English! We implore the Ministry of Education to actively explore education opportunities in Russia.

It is disheartening to learn that the government turned down an offer by the Russians to assist Botswana with health specialists. This is incomprehensible given the acute shortage of specialists in our health system. We would want to believe

at least that this untenable situation could be due to some administrative lapses. Otherwise, this will be tantamount to a criminal offence. It is an open secret that the development of the Cuban health system owes its success to the Russian input.

Cuban health professionals are now spread out all over the African continent providing sterling services to ordinary citizens. We unequivocally call on the government to urgently re-consider the Russian offer to the health sector.