There is very little difference between this classroom and a petting zoo as the children run around chasing each other, jumping on the tables and throwing their mini-chairs all over the place.
There is not even the slightest sign of worry or hardship. The children are just being children; playing and enjoying life taking in everything as it comes.
But this sight, heart-warming as it looks, may be a far cry from the grim reality of where they come from. With careful observation, the only thing that may give them away is the conspicuous absence of toys or edutainment material.
“My name is Kutlwano,” says one bubbly five-year-old little girl. “I am doing form-one.” Kutlwano’s education, like that of half of the 46 pupils at Lesang Bana day care centre in Metsimotlhabe, is wholly dependent on the donations of good Samaritans.
Despite having been highlighted as a crucial foundation in the revised national policy on education, pre-primary education in Botswana is still not free. The majority of children from underprivileged households are disadvantaged as they cannot afford pre-primary education.
“What happens between the periods a child is born to the time they turn eight years old is the cornerstone upon which the child grows and develops,” says Sister Paulina, caretaker at Lesang Bana.
“Our aim is to help these children meet their basic needs.” Sister Pauline says their doors are open to all children between the ages of three and six for the Monday to Friday classes.
“The classes run from 0700 hours to 1600 hours weekdays and since some of the orphans come from outside Metsimotlhabe they have to be ferried to and from school on a daily basis,”she says. She says children with parents are required to pay a reasonable fee to help with the day to day expenses of the orphanage like nutritional breakfast and lunch. However, she insists children are never turned away because their parents have not paid the fee.
Rather, Sister Paulina says, parents who cannot afford are required to contribute by cleaning the school at least once a week. The school’s appeal for assistance from the private sector did not fall on deaf ears as indicated by Barclays Bank Botswana through their 2013 Pan African Graduate Program. Through the program Barclays has identified three young Batswana, Bonolo Kole, Brian Moipone and Khumoekae Chanongwa to participate in the world-wide Barclays initiative.
To facilitate their programme completion the recipients were required to identify a needy course in a community and raise funds to assist the beneficiaries in line with the Barclays value of stewardship.
The three recipients identified the Lesang Bana day care centre and will be engaging in a fundraising Masquerade Ball event in Phakalane on October 26th. “We believe education is a very important tool the foundation of which every child needs,” says Moipone, one of the recipients.
Also on board are former Miss Botswana and first Princess Sumaiyah Marope and Naledi Moshoeshoe respectively. The two beauty queens will be auctioning evening gowns as part of raising funds for the orphanage.
Lesang Bana (let the children be) ,derived from the scripture Mark 10:14 when Jesus said , “let the children come to me for the Kingdom of God is theirs,” was established in July 2004 by the Divine Mercy Catholic Community in Metsimotlhabe to give care to orphans and vulnerable children.