Sunday, October 25, 2020

Poverty and the story of two Botswanas

There used to be a belief among many people, including Batswana, quite true at the time – that education was one of the most potent instruments to escape poverty. That belief led to many poor families investing what little resources they had in a few of their children hoping that once educated they will use that education to lift not just themselves, but their whole brethren from that grueling poverty.

That is no longer the case.In fact education is no longer a guarantee for much else. There are many people who now view  education as perpetuating poverty and the inequalities already prevalent in our society. Botswana now is a country divided into two. This division manifests itself in more ways than one. The division is geographic because the west of the country is far worse off than the east.The division is also spatial in that the cities are better off than the rural areas.

Not to be spared, the cities have themselves become little miniatures of the big divide consuming the country. Parts of the city are synonymous with squalor, hopelessness, disease and abject poverty. The obscene wealth and affluence that exists in parts of the same cities only a few miles away from poverty is for the majority of the poor really a world away. And they cannot imagine themselves having such affluence. As it grows in its intensity, this divide becomes ever more dangerous and unsustainable.

Some politicians have made reference to it.But none has made any moves to address and tackle it.To tackle it we need politicians that are themselves totally against tribalism and tribal politics.

A large number of Batswana have been relegated to poverty, not for lack of trying to uplift themselves but simply because they were born in the western belt that runs all the way from the southern tip of the country in the Kgalagadi to the north most part in the Okavango.

Poverty in this western belt has really betrayed all ideals that Botswana as a country aspires, exudes and even cherishes.There cannot be democracy when such a huge section population has been left behind in structural destitution.

Clearly poverty in the western parts of Botswana is a result of uneven sharing of resources. The eastern parts have received and allocated themselves much more than is due to them – and for inordinately long periods of time.

The western areas in contrast have been consistently throttled and expected to run on a bare minimum.

This is hardly surprising because these resources are controlled and managed from the east by people in the east – and this includes politicians and bureaucrats who are based, domiciled and originating from the east.

So, there is some level of discrimination involved. It might be subtle. But it is there. Fairness, Justice and even-handedness are the bedrocks of any democracy. And Botswana’s distribution and deployment of resources does not have any of those attributes.

Relative to people in the east, a majority of people in the western belt have suffered massive unemployment, massive deprivation and massive poverty.

One only has to look at school results of students in the west to see how few opportunities children born in those areas face right from birth.

Everything is heavily stacked against them.

The story of poverty in Botswana is a story of two Botswanas – one country divided by inequality and officially enforced injustice against a large section of the population.

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