Barclays Bank of Botswana has committed to a three-year partnership with a non-governmental organization, Stepping Stones International (SSI), with a view to uplifting the lives of vulnerable and needy children through an After-School Programme, in Mochudi. To that effect the Bank contributed an amount to the tune of P816, 000.
The contribution has been hailed as a landmark and causes enough to inspire the response of other equally prominent investors to emulate such a generous act of goodwill in favour of those who need it most.
The partnership, which is part of the Bank’s corporate social responsibility aimed at improving the quality of life of communities within which the bank operates, is intended to have empowered at least 150 children at the lapse of a three year period.
Thuli Johnson, Managing Director of Barclays Bank of Botswana, explained that young people, especially the orphaned and vulnerable youth, would be given skills and experience to develop, plan and manage their own small enterprises.
According to the Bank MD, this will in the final analysis facilitate an attitude of responsibility, self-reliance as well as creativity. Following on from this, he pointed out that initiative and economic empowerment through financial independence would be assured.
Tiny Seitei, Coordinator of SSI concurred with Johnson, that, although the Center mainly serves as a psycho-social support center, “SSI’s vision is to develop individuals who do not see themselves as objects of pity, rather than independent and self sufficient entrepreneurs who have a contribution “to make the world and Botswana a better place”.
Seitei, has said of the partnership, “Looking back, and considering where the center took off, and more importantly the fact that we run on donations, it is clearly a commendable gesture that Barclays Bank has practicably expressed out of empathy and support for those in need.”
Johnson expressed the view that his Bank is proud to be associated “with this life-changing programme.” In addition, he intimated to the Sunday Standard that Barclays’ partnership with SSI is in line with the Bank’s “Banking on Brighter Futures” strategy of the corporate social responsibility programme. The strategy includes development of entrepreneurial skills, employment, financial education and financial inclusion.
Apparently, SSI, or Stepping Stones, as it is commonly referred to, has premised its name on a visionary concept that the kids would be railed though a three-stage “graduative” progressive entrepreneurial development. The first stage is called Granite, whilst the second is named Emerald and the final qualifies the achiever to be in the Diamond category.
Despite the fact that the project is still in its infancy stages, “We are happy that already two of our products are students for special courses at Limkonkwing University and Gaborone Institute of Professional Studies, respectively,” Sertei said.
Orphans and vulnerable needy kids from the ages of 12 to 18 years, that is in the range of Standard 5 up to Form Five, are identified on the basis of specified criteria, to benefit from the services offered by SSI. It has been stated that children whose ages happen to exceed 18 by the time they complete schooling are not discriminated against.
Seitei indicated that Guidance and Counseling teachers have proved to be the most appropriate people for assessing the eligibility of kids for SSI services, on account of their consistent and frequent interaction with them. However, the SSI Chief highlighted the significance of the role played by Social and Community Development Officers in the programme. She said they are much closer to the Community and strategically placed since they keep registers of any reported cases in the community.
Once identified, these kids are released by their respective schools to attend their normal after school sessions at the center whilst others without any special circumstances attend as required by routine. So far at least 10 schools are recipients to the programme, Molefi Secondary School included.
Through the SSI programme, positive growth and development of orphaned and vulnerable youth is nurtured and they are assisted academically, emotionally as well as physically and spiritually.
“It is through expression activities, sports, learning study skills and job skills training that the programme aims to nurture the future investors in these kids,” said Barclay’s officials.
Behavioral Change and HIV and AIDS education, as well as life skills have been incorporated in the progamme to empower the children for their own survival skills in world of challenges.