For remote area dwellers, especially women, life is tough. Among the woes they face are poverty, lack of community support, and illiteracy.
Should they fail at low classes like Junior Certificate, their lives are almost doomed. Their fate is further worsened by prejudice, with putdowns such as ‘alcohol consumption is their lifestyle’, ‘fighting is their custom’ or ‘they are nymphomaniacs’.
These provide a fertile ground for their lack of self-esteem and impact negatively on their dignity. These subject them to violence.
The unveiling of these through a research conducted by a University of Botswana Lecturer, Dr Kelone Khudu-Petersen, is bound to bring change. Dr Khudu-Petersen and her husband, Jes Petersen have set up an institution called Springboard Humanism in Molepolole.
“Springboard Humanism supports young women who originate from remote rural areas of Botswana who are economically disadvantaged, ethnically marginalised and subjected to different forms of exploitation and ill-treatment,” explained Dr Khudu-Petersen in an interview.
She added that for one year their organisation offers accommodation to these young women, to ensure a safe environment.
They also offer them tutorial lessons to enable them to rewrite their form three examinations. Furthermore, the organisation offers life skill training to enhance self-confidence and entrepreneur skills training through running of a tuck-shop and sewing workshop, aiming for economic empowerment.
Already one of the institution’s students runs a tuck-shop at Dutlwe in Kweneng West. Another one is still gaining skills through the same tuck shop.
“The trainee gets a stocked up shop ÔÇô about P 4 000 worth, then she sells with a 30% gain. She then takes half of the profit as ‘salary’ every month-end and re-invests the other half. At the end of the year, she may take all the profit she made to use it to purchase stock for her own shop,” said Jes Petersen.
At the time of the interview, the organisation was awaiting JC results for their first batch of 16 students.
To ensure that the students improve their performance the institution utilises services of volunteer teachers, especially Peace Corps. There are also are Batswana volunteers who teach Social studies. As for Setswana, they are paying someone who is unemployed and cannot afford to teach voluntarily.
The institution’s Operations Manager, Jes Petersen, teaches Maths, Science and Agriculture. To build up their confidence, Dr Khudu- Petersen said, they meet on weekly basis as the leadership, staff and students to get the students to closely interact with the staff and management. This has paid dividends.
She said, “Their confidence has risen as they now answer questions confidently. They can express themselves confidently about their life and choice for meal and other essentials.”
She said to smoothen their services they combine forces with the Village Development Committee and other village leaders to ensure the students register with Botswana College of Distance Learning BOCODOL so that they access learning material.
Asked whether they cater for victims of violence the duo said the institution does not have provision for such, but they can be aided through coincidence. Jes Petersen explained that though they do not have stipulated guidelines for such services, they are obliged to help given the background of the students. Lack of social support and various exploitations on the students leaves them prone to violence.
Officially registered in 2010, Springboard is run partially from the pockets of its founders and partially from private donors. Lady Khama Charity Trust sponsors boarding facility. The council supplies food rations. Barclays Bank recently donated some P80 000 which the institution used to refurbish the huts, buy the nice cafe furniture this writer was shown and some kitchen equipment.
Asked about the institution’s future plans, the couple explained that it is aware that the students the organisation supports have children and deficient social support negatively affects their performance. Therefore, they envision expanding the institution to take students’ children aboard. A kindergarten class would do.