What is "thuto"?

"Thuto" is a word in Setswana, the national language of Botswana. It is related to the verbs "go ruta" (to teach), and "go ithuta" (to learn), and is usually now translated "education" or "learning". It appears in the University of Botswana motto, "Thuto ke thebe": literally "Education is a shield", perhaps with an echo of "Knowledge is power".

The word has a complex history, which is discussed in Paul Landau's The Realm of the Word. In the nineteenth century the concept of thuto included (at least in the Ngwato kingdom) learning, literacy, and the Christian culture King Khama III was trying to establish. In this context it should be noted that moruti, literally "teacher", also means "minister of religion".

The "th" should be pronounced as an aspirated "t", not as the English "th" sound.


The thuto.org site is devoted to learning about Botswana, and related issues. The webmaster is Dr B. S. Bennett, History Department, University of Botswana.

Copyright © 2007 University of Botswana History Department.
Last updated 11 June 2008.
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