The iconic Dr. Gaositwe Chiepe: A Quintessential Trailblazer, 100 Years On

A diplomat and educator of note, Dr Chiepe has been recognised for her service nationally and internationally by several distinguished awards and accolades, writes RORISANG MOGOJWE


Intellectual, educator, diplomat, politician and cabinet minister, Dr Gaositwe Chiepe is a force to reckon with. The quintessential trail blazer. She crawled so we could walk and our daughters would fly.

Chiepe was instrumental in the formulation of Botswana’s educational system. She became Botswana’s first director of education, tasked to design a system that would bring education to people across the nation through an inclusive homegrown curriculum that would inculcate the unique communities that make up Botswana.

The country’s modern policies, which are designed to give all children access to basic education and to maximise enrolment levels, stem from the efforts of Dr Chiepe and her colleagues during her years in the education portfolio. Today Botswana boasts one of Africa’s highest literacy rates, thanks to her.

She was also an advocate of women empowerment. A woman of many celebrated firsts, she was often the sole female in the many positions that she served in.

And as Botswana continues its gender equality trajectory, Dr Chiepe has become an icon that many young professionals look up to, a yard stick of professional success in a male-dominated environment. Over the years we have seen a rise of women in leadership and decision-making roles with a seat at the top table by virtue of their hard work.

However, there is still dismally low women representation in politics – an area that Chiepe also managed to conquer. Even with age-old patriarchal practices and proverbs such as as “Ga di ke di etelelwa pele ke manamagadi” that enforced the stereotype that indeed females cannot lead, she showed them that effective leadership is gender-blind.

Women are hardworking, brilliant nation builders who contribute meaningfully to our society. Mosadi thari ya Sechaba. It simply is what it is. A diplomat and educator of note, Dr Chiepe has been recognised for her service nationally and internationally by several distinguished awards and accolades.

She is the recipient of the Presidential Order of Merit (Botswana), the Presidential Order of Meritorious Service (Botswana), Commander of the Royal Order of Polar Star from the King of Sweden, and Member of the Order of the British Empire.

She is also a recipient of honorary doctorates from the University of Bristol in England, De Paul University in the United States and Fort Hare in South Africa. The University of Botswana has also awarded her with an honorary Doctor of Laws for her great role in the development of the country. Dr Chiepe is also an avid advocate of family and community values because motho ke motho ka batho.

I could spend all day appreciating her outstanding contribution to the development of our beloved Botswana and being awe-struck at the achievements of this iconic woman. But instead I will end here and be grateful that I existed during her lifetime as she celebrates the centenary of her birth on Thursday.

Happy 100th birthday Dr. Chiepe! May what you have built continue to be woven into the lives of Batswana. And may we continue to be humbled and enthralled to know your legacy in this life, motsadi wa rona.

Mma Chiepe is living proof of how far Botswana has come as a nation
She is one of many exemplary graduates of Moeng College who were equipped to make significant contributions to Botswana when the nation was finally born.

Along with many other accomplished Batswana and as an alumnus of Moeng College, Mma Chiepe is an example of what can be achieved through our own efforts as a nation with a strong vision, discipline, determination and our traditional independent mind set.
Happy 100th birthday Mma Chiepe. From the Tshekedi Khama Legacy Foundation.

The Lord designed every detail of who you are for 10 decades. You are special, loved and the world is blessed to have you in it. May every minute of your 100th birthday be filled with the immense joy you’ve shared with your loved ones for 100 years. Itumeleng Moremong on behalf of the Mohohlo and Moremong families.

Happy 100 years! You inspired all of us while we were growing up and many of us looked up to you as a great minister and leader. From Thapelo Tsheole, CEO of BSE.