Teenagers across Botswana have one more thing in common, besides the alarming surges of hormones coursing through their veins. Often, there are little or no places for them to go. Many spend amounts of hours confined to painfully boring solitary activities such as video games, watching television and a house party once in a while.
Boredom sees teenagers into adult pleasure zones like nightclubs, bars, pubs and parties, which are high-risk areas for ‘defilement.’
I spoke to two teenagers who would rather have non-alcoholic or smoking spots where they could dance. That is the very idea that drove Teen Zone, a short-lived club based at Molapo Crossing that hosted live DJs playing to an audience of teens. Who proved to be a handful, as some teenaged girls reportedly used Teen Zone as a foil to outwit parents for alcohol fuelled dates with their older ‘boyfriends’ while they were meant to be having innocent fun.
Robin Chivasve, who DJs at Yarona FM and also managed the club says: “When I pulled out from Teen Zone, in October last year, I had realised that the idea was not viable because, as it turned out, teenagers aren’t interested in clean fun.
“Teen Zone was a non alcoholic zone but some teenagers drank in the car park.”
The club closed shortly after Chivasve’s pulling out. No leisure business, solely targeting the youth has been reported since the closing of Teen Zone. Although cinemas tend to be the urban teenager’s number 1 hang out spot, New Capitol Cinemas, the main cinema in Gaborone, currently offers no discounted tickets for their younger patrons.
In the absence of affordable commercial recreation facilities that appeal to the youth, the last options for teen recreation has to be committing to cultural and sporting activities, which require dedication for the countless rehearsals, workouts and competitions. Some of these sourced through government departments.
The National Youth Council has sporting programs and facilities available for use for no charge. “Anyone can use our facilities, all they have to do is register and book the premises beforehand,’ says the Program Officer, Gaontebale Mokgosi.
“We are strategically placed in Gaborone West, among the shebeens, clubs and liquor restaurants,” he said. “Teenagers can instead come into our facilities instead the bars.
“There is a football club with many teams that include a women’s team, whose practice sessions are hampered due to the Township Rollers use of the Youth Council’s field as its training ground,” he says.
Mokgosi says the National Youth Council’s budget covers administration and programmes have to make do with a stringent budget that oft finds the council with limited resources, which, interestingly, proves to be a conundrum because they find themselves unable to store equipment donated to them.
Mokgosi, however, says they are working on introducing more sporting codes namely tennis, basketball and hockey in the near future.
The Department of Sports and Recreation is currently piloting a programme dubbed Active Community Club (ACC). This is done in partnership with the Australian Sports Commission, which is the Australian government body that coordinates the government’s contribution to sport.
The Australian Sports Commission is currently running similar pilots in Malawi, Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa. In Botswana this programme has been adopted at Molepolole and Masunga stadiums.
Essentially, the ACC encourages mass participation in sports for informed players and spectators in the future. The whole community is encouraged to implement any cultural or sporting ideas.
Mavis Kgweenyane, the Active Community Club’s National Coordinator, spoke to me fresh from a workshop she attended with her peers from other countries running ACC pilots and said that some of the desired outcomes of ACC are empowering volunteers through specialised training within their different sporting codes and a thriving hub of community sports, cultural activities and possibly communal gymnasiums.
This may just be the answer to another fourteen-year old’s hopes, who said she would love a sports centre with various facilities such as gym, swimming pools, tracks, courts and fields for various sports “with free entrance so that we could go out whenever we want.”