By Basadi Morokotso
Participants at a four-day Physco Social Support training for hostel support staff at various boarding primary schools in the Okavango Sub district have been urged to be extra patient when dealing with vulnerable children..
Majority of these children admitted at the primary boarding schools are Basarwa.
The schools admit children as young as six years who are then expected to stay at hostels away from their parents the entire term.
Speaking at the training workshop in Maun on Monday, the principal social welfare officer Godisamang Ditirelo stated that the government is aware of the heavy work load that caretakers endure.
Their daily tasks include among others ensuring that the children blend in well with their peers, considering the fact that they will now be in a totally different environment; away from their families as a first time experience.
She noted that some children come from dysfunctional families and might have experienced all forms of abuse which might add to their failure or cause delays for them to adapt to the new environment, hence the need for patience and proper understanding from their caretakers.
Maun Administrative Authority (MAA) principal community development officer, Keitumetse Kgosimoloi, said generally Basarwa are a group of people who will not conform to something that they do not understand. Therefore it was important to treat them in a manner that would make them feel wanted since they come from different backgrounds.
Quizzed on how they manage to handle such children, most of who cannot communicate in any other language besides their mother tongue, Kgosimoloi admitted that indeed there has always been an issue of language barrier.
She said they have through the affirmative action program sourced support staff to help translate and make children feel confident when expressing themselves in their preferred languages. “Most of our support staffs are sourced within communities where these children come from. We have also roped in the services of teacher aides to make this possible,” she said.
She added that “Besides Basarwa, there’s also a large number of Baherero and Bambukushu children, and it is for this reason that we always make it a point that there is a good representation of all tribes. Our hope is that caregivers and parents alike could team up and give children an opportunity to freely discuss their fears and expectations while under their care.”
For her part, matron at Xakao hostel Ponalo Moremedi recommend that children should not be secluded from their parents, especially that they leave home to start hostel life and start reception classes from as young as six years old. “It is important that parents should know how their children cope at school and if they have blended well with their peers. However this is always not the case because of lack of transport to ferry parents from the various settlements in our extension area which covers Xakao, Kauxwi, Tobera, Skondomboro, Kapitura and Tobera to attend Parents Teacher Association meetings”.
Moremedi’s sentiments were echoed by caretaker at Xakao Primary School hostels, Dalina Satau who suggested that special consideration should be given to vulnerable children particularly those of Basarwa origin because they have their own beliefs which they always want to maintain. She said their way of thinking is different and suggested that they should be shown the need to do extremely well at school for the betterment of the livelihoods of their families. No matter how educated they may be, she said they always abandon whatever they might have gained academically and opt for either hunting or many of their cultural skills.
“I am saying this from experience because I am also a Mosarwa. There is need for these people to be listened to and understood. Some of them abscond from an early age because they don’t know the importance of education. It is even worse because in some instances it is their parents who do not want them to go through proper schooling,” she said.
An official of the Department of Social Protection Moffat Nkgari said at the workshop that the triple crisis of HIV/AIDS, poverty as well as conflicts within families have weakened the traditional social and security of children.
“Most children have experienced death of parents and loved ones and have been displaced as a result. If we are to have a bright future, we must invest in our children so as to ensure that they are happy, confident and secure. He said care and support need to be focused on ensuring that their needs are met holistically and in a way that ensures positive growth and development,” he said.