This South African Scholar Earned Africa’s First Ph.D. in Indigenous Astronomy

This South African Scholar Earned Africa’s First Ph.D. in Indigenous Astronomy

Motheo Koitsiwe
Image via North-West University

One South African accomplished a milestone that made him go down in his history. Motheo Koitsiwe became the first African man to receive a Ph.D. in African indigenous astronomy from North-West University (NWU). He also holds a B.A. in social sciences, and master’s in indigenous knowledge systems.

Koitsiwe says he was inspired by years of listening to oral traditions in his local community and hearing stories from an early age from his grandmother. He began to start learning more about the African indigenous astronomy in South Africa and Botswana.

“This passion was ignited by my late grandmother, Mmamodiagane Tladinyane, when she narrated stories, poems, riddles, [and] songs of African night skies and cosmologies around the fireplace,” Dr. Koitsiwe said in a university press release.

“The study revealed that the Batswana use their indigenous knowledge of celestial bodies for agriculture, reproductive health, navigation, time calculation, calendar making, rainmaking and thanksgiving ceremonies, and for natural disaster management,” according to the university.

Koitsiwe also added that he was happy to complete his degree during the same time that the country passed the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Act to help provide more resources to teaching those in the country about their indigenous roots.

“The [university] campus in Mahikeng is the pioneer of IKS in South Africa and started with teaching, learning, and research in IKS in 2001,” he says. “It is the first higher institution of learning in the country to have a registered teaching, learning, and research program in IKS, accredited by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA).”

According to the university, Koitsiwe is currently working on translating his thesis in the Tswana language with aspirations to pursue a career in academia.