Pitzer in Botswana

Extended application due date for spring 2018 participation: October 1, 2017

Pitzer in Botswana: A tri-country (Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe) comparative studies program that exposes students to important issues, cultures and people of this region.
The program is based in Botswana where students spend a total of two and a half months, and also includes extended study trips in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Students live with host families, study local cultures, and work with local scholars and experts in each country. Participants experience first-hand the concept and life of Ubuntu, the notion that defines the communal nature of the cultural values of the South African, Batswana and Zimbabwean peoples. It embraces the notion in their greetings that proclaims, “I am well if you are well,” and “my destiny is intricately intertwined with yours.” This idea was at the heart of the post-colonial reconciliation process of Zimbabwe that became a model for South Africa’s post-Apartheid government strategy and its celebrated Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Additionally, the program provides students with an opportunity to learn about the multiple ways governments, NGOs and local communities in the region choose to approach issues that are common across borders, such as the colonial legacy, development, race, power, human rights and reconciliation, big game conservation, ecology and tourism, health care, education, and poverty. During the final month of the program, students pick one topic to pursue in depth for an independent study project, culminating in a major paper.


One of Africa’s most politically and economically stable countries, Botswana is home to over 2 million people and 226,900 square miles of vast savannas, the Kalahari Desert, and world famous wildlife parks, including the Okavango Delta. Botswana’s citizens, most of whom live in the major cities, towns and villages along the eastern border, enjoy standards of education and economic well-being rivaled on the continent only by neighboring South Africa. Although Botswana shares many socio-cultural commonalities with the rest of the region, it is unique from a political and historical standpoint. It was never colonized and never had to fight a war of independence. As a result, Botswana has thrived, and students will witness first-hand how good governance and prudent natural resources management can have a positive effect on societal issues such as racism, poverty, and gender inequity.

South Africa
Since the overthrow of Apartheid and the historic 1994 election, the Rainbow Nation has tried to strike a balance between the expectations of the hitherto marginalized black population and those of the white minority. A vibrant democracy and progressive constitution has resulted in a socio-economic and political transformation that has ushered in a new era of prosperity for the non-white marginalized groups that were excluded by Apartheid policies.  Nonetheless, after two decades of post-Apartheid efforts, the country still struggles with high unemployment and poverty rates, and with major challenges around issues of healthcare disparities, housing, and education.  A combination of lectures and study trips will enable students to unpack the complex issues behind South Africa’s transformative agenda.

Once the breadbasket of southern Africa and a model of post-colonial transformation, Zimbabwe has struggled politically and economically in recent decades. Despite these challenges, the country still has the highest literacy rates on the African continent and continues to play a significant role in environmental conversation efforts. Students explore issues related to land and agriculture, politics, natural resources, ownership and management.


Pitzer College in Botswana Documentary
Pitzer students Alex Cooke and Chris Norwood are media studies majors who studied in Botswana fall semester 2014.  They produced and directed a 15 minute video documentary that captures both the cultural context and  academics of the program in Botswana. Watch now.

Pitzer Graduate Marie Fleming ’16 Joins Peace Corps to Improve Food Security in Madagascar
Fleming studied abroad on the Pitzer in Botswana program. As a research intern with the Okavango Research Institute in Botswana in 2014, she conducted fieldwork to explore conflict between humans and wildlife in the region. She says her experience in Pitzer in Botswana encouraged her to apply to the Peace Corps. Read the press release.

Botswana study abroad and research opportunity sparks career interest 
Jake Shimkus CMC ’15  speaks about how his research on rural electrification in Botswana during the fall of 2013 motivated his interest in a career in sustainable energy access.  Watch now.

  • Academics

    botswana-universityHost Institution

    The program is affiliated with the University of Botswana, a comprehensive institution of higher learning with an undergraduate enrollment of roughly 16,000, located in the capital city of Gaborone.

    BTW107 PZ  Core Course: Socio-political Change in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe
    BTW15 PZ    Intensive Setswana Language
    BTW103 PZ  Independent Study Project
    Suggested Preparation
    Coursework in Southern Africa area studies or development studies.
    Students must be in good academic standing and have a 2.0 or higher GPA on a 4.0 scale.
    Program Dates
    Fall: Early August to mid-December
    Spring: Mid-January to late May/early June
    Full Year: Early August to early June – contact the Office of Study Abroad for details


    Weeks 1 – 4          Village stay and intensive setswana language, Manyana, Botswana

    Week 5                 Study trip to Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park, Botswana

    Week 6 – 8            Extended study trip and family stay in Zimbabwe

    Week 9 – 11          Family stay and service learning internships in Gaborone, Botswana

    Week 12 – 14        Extended study trip and family stay in Soweto, South Africa

    Week 15 – 18        Independent study project and family stay in Gaborone, Botswana

    The Core Course

    Core Course: Socio-political Change in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe
    The Core Course is designed to provide students with a broad overview of Botswana, including its history, politics, culture, religion and important current issues, within which students are asked to place and analyze their personal experience. The course then offers students a comparative and regional perspective on these topics through extended study trips to South Africa and Zimbabwe. In each location, students engage in  family stays, participate in a series of lectures given by university faculty and specialists from governmental and non-governmental organizations, and take study trips to areas of historical, cultural and environmental importance. Students complete a series of writing assignments to integrate readings and lectures with the more experiential components of family stays, internships, and study trips to explore important issues from the host culture perspective and to deepen their cross cultural learning.

    Service Learning
    In order to gain firsthand experience with issues explored in the core course, while in Gaborone, students spend several afternoons a week working with a local or international organization. A variety of opportunities are available, including, but not limited to work in a hospital or clinical setting, teaching in a government school, participating in an organization that advocates for human rights, working in wildlife conservation with a government agency or a non-profit organization.

    Intensive Setswana Language Study

    While English is widely spoken by most people in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, the program realizes the importance of learning the local language as a way to honor the host community, connect more deeply with locals, and open windows into the host culture. This course provides students with an opportunity to develop a basic level of communicative proficiency in Setswana, the language of Botswana, which is also spoken in nearby parts of South Africa. The course emphasizes proficiency in speaking and listening through a highly communicative, interactive language curriculum that is closely connected to the rural  family stay experience in Botswana and to other field activities.

    Independent Study Project

    Students explore a topic of interest through a directed independent study. Projects are guided by local scholars, specialists, or program staff and may take the form of a research project (ethnographic research, environmental analysis, field ecology etc.), an apprenticeship (with an artist, craftsperson, dance troupe, theater group, etc.), an internship (with an NGO, government office, school, etc.) or work in the Vaccine Development Institute at the University of Botswana (for students with appropriate science backgrounds). For any of these projects, a significant analytical component in the form of a written report (and in some cases a film or other media studies format) provides the documentation of learning. This is the part of the program where students can often do something that counts towards their major that would be impossible to do on their home campus – often a great opportunity to begin work on a senior thesis. Students may pursue their topic in any of the three countries.

    View a list of independent study projects.

  • Study Trips

    To better understand important local and regional issues, students participate in a number of study trips while in each country.  While locations may vary slightly from semester to semester, study trips in Zimbabwe usually include: Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Zimbabwe Monument, and Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest protected area. In South Africa, students explore Pretoria and Johannesburg, study race relations, reconciliation, and post-Apartheid South Africa through visits to Soweto, the Apartheid Museum, the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park, attend a rugby or soccer match, and visit Krueger National Park and Madikwe Game Reserve to study two contrasting styles of big game management.  In Botswana, students examine the progress made in HIV-AIDS prevention and treatment through the Baylor Clinic, reflect on important issues of social justice at Ditshwanelo Center for Human Rights, learn about local and traditional governance from the Chief of Manyana, and study big game conversation and tourism in the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park.

    Pitzer students at the apartheid museum in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Mike Donahue



  • Independent Study Projects

    Students explore a topic of interest through an independent study. Capstone projects are guided by local scholars, specialists, or program staff and may take the form of a research project (ethnographic research, environmental analysis, field ecology etc.), an apprenticeship (with an artist, craftsperson, dance troupe, theater group, etc.), an internship (with an NGO, government office, school, etc.) or work in the Vaccine Development Institute at the University of Botswana (for students with appropriate science backgrounds). For any of these projects, a significant analytical component in the form of a written report (and in some cases a film or other media studies format) provides the documentation of learning. This is the part of the program where students can often do something that counts towards their major that would be impossible to do on their home campus – often a great opportunity to begin work on a senior thesis.

    Independent Research Areas
    African History
    African Literature
    Development Studies
    Environmental Studies
    Gender Studies
    International Relations
    Political Studies
    Public Health
    Theater and Dance
    Traditional Arts
    Vulnerable Children and Orphans
    Wildlife Ecology

    Independent Study Project Titles

    Ditholwana and Traditional Dance in Botswana

    Press Freedom

    The Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency: Building Business People in Maun, Botswana

    Reggae Music and Political Expression

    3P Productions and Botswana’s 40 Years of Independence

    Understanding the Limitations of Building and Consolidating the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions

    SAPSSI Activities and Boitumelo Mo Nageng Kids Camps for Orphans and Vulnerable Children: An in-Depth

    Reflection of Activities and Experiences

    The Youth Health Organization: Sharing Experiences

    Interning with the Youth Health Organization (YOHO), on Tour with the Dzalabana Bosole Arts Festival

    From Cattle to Carcass Meal: An analysis of Procedures at the BMC lobatse Abattoir.

    Healing HIV/AIDS in Setswana Culture: Four Case Studies.

    Perceptions of Traditional Medicine in Botswana.

    Art and Identity: The effects of globalisation on oppressed communities as reflected through their art.

    Odi Weavers: A Community Overcoming the Odds.

    Bogale: Appreciating the Segaba.

    Unspoken Language: A Closer Look at African Dance.

    Legkoa Journalism: My life as a Botswana Gazette Writer.

    Environmental Conservation in Botswana:The Role of an NGO

    The Lentswe la Oodi Producers Co-op

    Water: The Other Diamond of Botswana, A Study of Water Conservation

    The Revelation of AIDS in Botswana: BONAMODI

    Botlhale Jwa Phala Youth

    Botswana Power Corporation Workers Union: A historical analysis

    Internship at the Kalahari Conservation Society

    Decolonizing the Mind: The Case of Botswana

    The Diphalana Continuing Education Project

    Avoiding the Gallows: A Controversy over Capital Punishment in Botswana

    Traditional Song and Dance of Botswana

    House of Hope: A Community’s Response to the Impacts of HIV/AIDS

    The Legacy of Segametsi Mogomotsi

    Ditshwanelo, The Botswana Centre for Human Rights

    Internship with Women and Law in Southern Africa, Gaborone, Botswana: Struggles of LifeLine Botswana

    My Month in Gabane Pottery

    The Effects of Seed Age, Seed Size and Soil Composition on the Germination and Initial Seedling Growth on Colophospermum mopane.

    Oranges and Bananas and Mangoes (Oh My): Chobe farms and the Challenges of Agriculture in Northern Botswana.

    This is a research on challenges of commercial farming in Botswana using Chobe farms as a case study.

    Grey Matters and Living with Elephants

    Cohabitation in Botswana: The need for legislation.

    The Utilization of Traditional Vs. Modern Medicine: A Comparison of Urban and Rural Botswana.

    The Land Board as a Equalizing Institution: The Ngwato Land Board Case Study.

    Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo)

    Youth Popular Theater as a Community Education Tool in Botswana: Ghetto Artists Case Study.

    My Internship at The Botswana

    Traditional Egalitarianism: The Study of the Legal History of Rape.

    Traditional Dance in Modern Botswana Society

    Plastic Recycling: An Internship with Somarelang Tikologo and a look at urban environmental education in Botswana.

    Art as a Process for Cultural Identity and Critical Thinking

    Cultural Identity in a Changing Society: A Study of Traditional Songs of the Bangwaketse.

    Apprenticeship with Mogwana Traditional Dance Group: Traditional Dance in the Context of Botswana

    Mmegi: Investigative Reporting for the People.

    An internship with Botswana’s largest circulated newspaper and the role of print media in Botswana.

    The Attitude of Maun Residents Towards Maun Wildlife Education Park (MWEP)

    Home Based Care in Botswana and The Holy Cross Hospice: Their Relevance and Contribution in the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

    The Social Needs in Botswana’s Preschools

    The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Taking a look at what it is like working and planning in Gaborone.

    Access to Justice and The Criminality of Homosexuality in Botswana: The Case of Utjiwa Kanane.

    The Evolution of Drumming

    Refugees in Botswana: Stories, Frustrations, and Insights from Dukwi Refugee Camp.

    The Social Impacts of Elephants in Gidikwa: The Relationship Between the People and the Pachyderms.

    Surface Water Quality of Tamalakane River Maun, Botswana.

    The Thapong Experience.

    Basket-Weaving in Botswana: Still Really Something.

    The History of Printmaking in Africa and My Experience at Marothodi Ltd.

    Understanding Empowerment: Internship with Permaculture Trust of Botswana.

    Traditional Medicine in Botswana: The Past or the Future?

    Education as a Means of Socialization: Primary Education in Botswana.

    Trust for the Okavango Cultural and Development Initiatives: A Study in Grassroots Development – Itsoseng

    Bomme Basket Weavers Evaluative Report.

    Unification and Diversification of Music from An Untraditional Perspective in Botswana.

    Problem Animal Control and Moremi Game Reserve: A Case Study from the Perspective of a Wildlife Officer.

    My Life in the Bush: Large Carnivore Research with African Wildlife Foundation.

    SOS Kindergarten, Francistown, Botswana

    Care and Prevention go Hand in Hand: Botswana’s National Response to HIV/AIDS.

    The Centre for Strategic Studies: Helping Democracy Find a Place in the World of Defense and Security.

    The N/oakwe on the Road to Development.

    Mmino wa Setswana: Traditional Dance in Botswana.

    Thari Ya Sechaba: Traditional Midwives and Gaborone Birth Culture In the Age of AIDS

    The Risk and Resilience of San Peoples in Western Botswana: Working with the Kuru Family of Organizations

  • Family stays


    The heart of the Pitzer in Botswana program is the opportunity to live with a host family in each of the three countries. Host families serve as important co-educators on the program, not only for language and culture learning, but also as a way to allow students to further explore ideas and issues that are presented in lectures and readings. Students have two extended family stays in Botswana (rural and urban) and two week family stays in both South Africa and Zimbabwe.

    The Botswana family stays take place in the village of Manyana, for the first month of the program and then in the capital, Gaborone, during the middle and the final month of the program. In Manyana, most families are involved in seasonal farming activities focused primarily around sorghum, maize, and cattle.  Pitzer has a strong relationship with the community members as well as the Kgosi (Chief) and students quickly settle into the rhythms and hospitality of village life while participating fully in the community.  In Gaborone, students live with middle class, professional families while participating in service learning projects, and attending lectures by University of Botswana faculty and other experts.

    student_childrenSouth Africa
    Students live with host families in the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto, the heart of anti-Apartheid struggles in the 1960s. Soweto was and continues to be a hive of activity that presents an ideal location for learning about post-Apartheid South Africa.

    Family stays are based in Harare, close to the City’s social and cultural center. Students live with professional families who provide a window into many of the issues facing Zimbabwe today.




  • Meet the Director

    Batsirai Chidzodzo
    Director, Pitzer in Botswana

    CL 10MA15 LB Batsirai Chidzodzo (4)
    Batsirai Chidzodzo. Photo by Laurie Babcock

    Batsirai (“Batsi”) Chidzodzo received his BA from the University of Zimbabwe and an MBA from De Montfort University, where he was recognized for his thesis focusing on the flight of intellectual capital from Zimbabwe. He also holds a diploma in Personnel Management from the Institute of Personnel Management of Zimbabwe.

    A native of Zimbabwe, Batsi has spent over twenty years working with US study abroad programs in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. Between 1995 and 2000 he worked as Pitzer’s language and culture instructor-cum-coordinator on our Zimbabwean program. In 2000 he moved with the program to Botswana where he worked as our assistant director before leaving to start and direct the CIEE program at the University of Botswana. For five years at CIEE he was instrumental in setting up the semester program, a summer public health program, and an ongoing International Faculty Development Seminar for faculty and staff coming from the US. When offered the opportunity to return to Pitzer in 2012 as director of the program, Batsirai was excited to accept because he believes in our educational model, respects our students, enjoys working with Pitzer faculty, and sees tremendous potential in the program. Pitzer College was delighted when he agreed to take the lead in improving the quality of the program and expanding the curriculum to include South Africa and Zimbabwe. Batsi’s research interests include the history and politics of Southern Africa in relation to global political history.

Page last updated on May 11, 2017