BOT50 - What exactly are we celebrating?

SHARE   |   Thursday, 22 September 2016   |   By Thebe Ditshego
BOT50 - What exactly are we celebrating?

For a good number of native citizens, the hype of festivities surrounding Botswana's 50 independence celebrations lack meaning and purpose, simply because the life of the typical Motswana has not changed for better or worse. It has simply been preserved in the same state of unemployment, low wages and debt. In the country side, especially among minority tribes, things have actually gotten worse as the state has ignored the progress of their communities in favour of growth in the urban settlements. We continue to hear reports even today about the living conditions of squatters and rural children living in the Jwaneng area, where some of the children suffer from disease and malnutrition. The irony of this situation is that they live in the neighbourhood of the world’s richest diamond mine by value.

There is also difficulty in access to land, where in some land-boards waiting lists for allocation go as high as 180, 000 applications. Waiting periods go up to 20 years, just to access land in a country you belong to and are expected to be proud of. In terms of public health facilities as well as adequate access to world class treatment, the country still prides itself as the only country on earth that provides free antiretroviral treatment. This accomplishment is commendable, as people who are living with the HIV virus can now live longer with their families. However, it is important to observe the lack of medicines in many of the health posts. It is important to note that daily, batches of much needed medical supplies simply expire in government warehouses in the capital city. This undermines the efforts that the government is making to care for its citizens.

Education is given the largest share of the budget, rightfully so because education is a vital tool in human development. However this education is often cited as highly theoretical and does not speak to the needs of the kind of society we live in. Currently we are experiencing a flood of graduates in fields such as accounting and management, which are important, but are simply overcrowded for countries such as Botswana. To add to this problem we find that the education is often incomplete, as in the case of the Botswana University of Agriculture, formerly known as the College of Agriculture, where the curriculum mainly equips students with highly technical skills that make them competent officers in the Ministry of Agriculture but fails to equip them with relevant entrepreneurial training to turn them into proper farmers. This is why even though the government is trying to promote commercial Agriculture in an attempt to increase food production we find the sector as a whole being stagnant. It is because we are training agricultural officers to support subsistence farmers.

Botswana is often rated as one of the most prosperous countries in Africa due in large part to its impressive GDP per capita numbers. This number is not representative of the distribution of wealth and the truth is that Botswana is one of the most economically unequal places on earth. A few people enjoy the wealth of the land while the masses suffer along. A study done in 2013 proved that foreigners are paid on average up to three times more than natives. For a country that is supposed to be proud and independent, this is a sober fact that native Batswana are treated with contempt and disdain in the country they belong to.

The big question is - what is the significance of the 50 years to a person whose life has not improved who continues to suffer in poverty and neglect, and even a member of society who has received an education that has not uplifted him from his terrible situation. I posit that that person is justified to say that he does not see the point of the expensive celebrations, or even the tagline "United and proud" when he has nothing to be proud of. As a nation this is a time to reflect carefully and ask ourselves the question - What exactly are we celebrating?
Thebe Ditshego
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