As the national service programme makes a comeback in a week’s time, there is still one glaring omission carried over from decades ago when the programme was started.
At a time when Botswana is sponsoring students to study theatre and exporting high-grade actors, when the President’s Day holidays celebrate the arts, when a one-day music concert can rake in more than P1 million and when Culture Spears is mesmerising international audiences, the arts are still not part of Tirelo Sechaba (TS).
While the main aspect of TS is volunteerism, the programme is about a lot more than young people donating their time to communities. Among the stated objectives of TS are to “create opportunities for young people to gain lifelong skills and experience for self-reliance”, “enable youth to develop a good work ethic” and “tap on the creativity and energy of young people.” That description dovetails with what the arts make possible but no TS participant in the 2014/15 intake will be attached to a deejay, a musician, an art gallery, a traditional dance troupe or a stand-up comedy company.
A Mahalapye-based deejay-cum-politician, DJ Zeeman, says that it is time that the government recognises deejaying as a career and economic empowerment tool that the youth can use to fend for themselves.
“Deejaying is big business and in South Africa, deejays like Fresh and Euphonik have started schools to teach young people how to deejay. In my particular case, I can make P1200 in a day when some civil servants make only P2000 a month. Over the festive holidays there was a show here in which the DJs who were participating in it made roughly P1 million in just one day,” DJ Zeeman said from Mahalapye.
He added that it would be ideal to include deejaying (and the arts in general) in TS in order to achieve some of the programme’s objectives.
At the level where the volunteerism of TS participants is meant to enhance operational efficiency, Reginald Bakwena, the coordinator of the Thapong Visual Artists Centre, says that these participants would be useful to organisations like his and thus help the arts industry to grow. He adds that the participants themselves stand to gain from this experience in that they would acquire both interpersonal and business skills that would help mould their character.
“They would learn how the arts industry works and acquire useful business skills when they have to market products,” Bakwena says.
Sam Setumo, the chief executive officer of a theatre company called Millennium Production House, says that the main obstacle with extending TS to the arts is that the programme has been designed to operate within a government setting. He suggests that it should be expanded and given a commercial structure such that it can accommodate the private sector.