Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Proposed building of School Of the Arts further deferred

The long-anticipated construction of the School of the Arts may be delayed even further as government continues to prioritise funding of pre-existing projects on the back of the ripple effects of the global economic recession.

The Botswana National Arts Institute (BNAI) was first included in the National Development Plan (NDP) but was excluded from successive NDPs thereafter.

In 2001, the Botswana Society of the Arts (BSA) submitted the BNAI project to government during the NDP 9 and added on yellow pages of NDP 9 in 2003. However the project continued to be deferred and has now been moved to NDP 11.

BSA Coordinator, Lebogang Matsididi, anticipates that its construction can only happen between 2014 and 2020.

He explained in an interview that there is a dire need for a School of the Arts in Botswana. He regrets that there is not enough funding for the School.

“The establishment of the BNAI is dependent upon capital for construction commencement for the first phase of the project,” said Matsididi.

He said the BSA intermittently receives an operating grant of P100 000 from the Department of Arts and Culture, which was received last year after almost three years without a grant. He said the grant is inadequate to meet the operational needs of the Society.

Government leased 10 hectares of land near Gaborone dam to BSA for BNAI and provided P10 million for professional design fees of the buildings.

Matsididi said popular belief is that BSA received P10 million as a lump sum but that amount (P10 million) is the commutative figure of all costs paid for at each phase and level of the development project to the stage where it is now ready to build.

Matsididi also said the funds that are left were the balance of the funds received for pre design costs and those are earmarked for fundraising and awareness of the BNAI, he said the amount was approximately P290 000.

“We are constantly engaging with corporates and donor agencies to help us in our daily works not forgetting to mention our loyal members on whose membership fees we also depend for survival,” said Matsididi.

He lamented that it has been very difficult to receive long term funding support as, along the years, donors and commercial entities have been clutching hands to their chests as they had to do budget cuts and savings. He said that they are hoping that the project will be acted upon by government in NDP 11, as it has been set aside as a new project in NDP 11 because government is focusing on pre existing projects due to lack of funds.

The European Union (EU) Consultancy Report of 2009 to BSA was seen as an effort to get the project make a quick take-off. It rendered the services of two consultants, Jeremy Avis and Ruth Stewart to undertake the needs assessment for the Institute, to develop the curricula blue print for the Institute and to develop the fundraising strategy.

“Botswana’s scarcity of effective training in and small market for the Arts has adversely affected its ability to harness the benefits of this fast growing sector,” said the EU Consultancy Report.
The EU Consultancy Report was said to provide both a clear statement of the reasons why the Institute is so needed in Botswana ‘at this time’ and a clear step-by-step plan of action through which the Institute can be realised on the ground.

The Report said the BNAI would lay the foundations for a new Creative Economy in Botswana.
BSA’s main mandate to setup this institute was also said to help government and focus on the youth population, who account for about 51.7 percent of the total unemployed, with the 15-19 age group most affected.

“Botswana is a country with an abundance of artistic talent that remains largely untapped. The School of Arts will mobilise these resources by providing training opportunities for the many out-of-school youth who are unemployed, giving them access to a whole new world of employment opportunities and enabling them as reaping the personal benefit of creative self expression and fulfilment,” said the letter of acceptance of the BNAI from the then Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs to BSA, dated May 23, 2003.

The School was also seen by government as complementing performing arts courses at the Colleges of Design and Technology in Oodi and Francistown.

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Digital edition of The Telegraph, December 2, 2020.