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

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Motheo Koitsiwe

A South African has reached a milestone that made him go down in history. Motheo Koitsiwe was the first African to receive a doctorate. in African Indigenous Astronomy from North-West University (NWU). He also has a B.A. in Social Sciences and Masters in Indigenous Knowledge Systems.

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

"This passion was sparked by my late grandmother, Mmamodiagane Tladinyane, when she was telling stories, poems, riddles (and) songs of the African night sky and cosmology by the fireplace," said Dr. Koitsiwe in a press release from the university.

"The study found that the Batswana use their indigenous knowledge of celestial bodies for agriculture, reproductive health, navigation, timing, calendar creation, rain and Thanksgiving ceremonies, and natural disaster management," the university said.

Koitsiwe added that he was happy to complete his studies during the same time the country was passing the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Act to provide more resources to educate the people in the country about their indigenous roots.

"The (university) campus in Mahikeng is the pioneer of IKS in South Africa and began teaching, learning and researching in IKS in 2001," he says. "It is the first higher education institution in the country to have a teaching, learning and research program in ICS accredited by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA)."

According to the university, Koitsiwe is currently working on the translation of his dissertation into the Tswana language with an ambition to pursue an academic career.