Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The struggle for identity in the age of globalization: the case for citizenship education in Botswana

Globalisation is often discussed with exclusive reference to worldwide economic integration and the emergence of a borderless or global world with no regard for localism. It generally refers to increased economic, political, social and cultural relations across international boundaries and articulatesthe idea of a villagized world. Central to this process of a rapid changing world are varied opportunities and threats for the developing world, with the struggle for identity emerging as one of the most striking threats presented by globalization, ostensibly because developing nations in general and African countries in particular are integrating into the global village from an inferior position. Ankide, Gidado&Olaopa (2000) bluntly argue that globalization is a one-arm banditry and exploitative antecedents of capitalism which by its nature cannot exist without parasitic behaviour, its immutable and immediate focus is to exploit African resources, disintegrate its economy and incorporate it into the international capitalist economy. 

Considering that African countries are globalizing from a weaker position, they are inherently at risk of being assimilated into the dominant cultures implying that African nationhood as representing a particular society within a villagized world is at stake. Thus, the fierce globalization tendencies sweeping across the world threaten to dissipate African identity in general and Botswana’s identity in particular as specific and unique breed.

This essay seeks to present a case for a deliberate national initiative that is intended to address this and other societal challenges resulting from the phenomenon of globalization. It seeks to contribute to the discourse about what should Botswana do to preserve her identity in the face of the powerful forces of globalization. In the context of this discussion, identity is used to denote the awareness of who we are as individual citizens and collectively as a nation. Identity lies at the root of the search for the essence and pride of being a Motswana, going forward. 

A few weeks ago The Linguist Chairof The Telegraph fame by Professor Thapelo Otlogetswe discussed a topic titled ‘Kealeboga>Kelly>Curls: A systematic bastadization of Setswana names’. The essay discussed the likely disappearance of Setswana names commenting that ‘when people lose their names, they lose part of their identity individually and collectively…Relatedly,  a daily RB1 call-in morning show recently discussed youth behaviour as a direct product of their upbringing wherein many callers decried the remarkable indiscipline of the youth and irresponsible parents. A combination of these lamentations points to adire situation, a near crisis point or even a situation that could be characterized as having reached a point of no return. 

Batswana’s identity in terms of awareness of who we are as a nation and the inherent pride of being a Motswana is on the verge of extinction. Being a Motswana is more than just being a citizen of Botswana. It involves accepting that there are duties and responsibilities that come with being a member of the Botswana society. It also involves specific behaviours and attributes that give one a unique Motswana identity. A Motswana used to be a caring, responsible, jovial, law abiding human animal proud of contributing towards making Botswana a great place to live for all our people. This is no longer the case. Whereas all age groups are affected, the youth are the hardest hit. For years, their date with identity crisis has been tolerated and justified as a normal and essential passing stage, a rite of passage in their development. Unfortunately, this position has been discredited as mere sugar-coating or window-dressing of a monumental problem. 

Ultimately, it has come to be accepted that unless there are radical changes in the way society conceptualizes identity crisis with a view to initiating a range of measures to confront the identity crisis pandemic, the Botswana nation looks set to becoming a home for faceless yobs who celebrate their nothingness and worship rotten and vile values that other nations regards as a curse and have vowed to exorcise as a matter of fact. Characteristic of the new found identity of a Motswana youth is the high level of intolerance especially among those who appear to be into partisan politics for fame. Intolerance breeds hatred which invariably lead to hostility, intimidation and violence that could ultimately lead to such things as corrective rape and/or loss of life. This dire situation calls for the introduction of citizenship education to help people acquire attitudes and behaviours necessary to live in harmony with oneself and others. 

As a matter of grave concern, the youth are demonized variously as a generation of slackers, the millennial thugs, the damned facebook generation, the lost generation or whatever you prefer to pejoratively call today’s young people. This characterization of the youth as the laziest, hopeless, criminally-minded and unapologetically unpatriotic generation ever is not helping in trying to whip them into acceptable art of mannerism. The excessive negativity coupled with changing lifestyles and values serves to alienate the youth further afield causing them to become less emotional and unlikely to feel sorry for themselves and other people. This lack of emotional intelligence perhaps explains the youth’s propensity to violent behaviours. 

In some ways, the excessive criticism directed at today’s young people causes them to search for a different, detached and lone identity that appropriately suits their circumstances and expresses their peculiar lifestyles hence their date with what psychologist call identity crisis. While a state of uncertainty, confusion and insecurity has always been regarded as a normal stage in a person’s development, there is overwhelming fear amongst adults that this has become unusual, disproportionate and monstrous more especially that it is also observable in adults. The uncertainty about oneself has reached a crisis point which justifiesthe need for concordant intervention measures at the national level to minimize the rot that is tearing Botswana apart, specifically by reviving some of the values that shaped our unique national identity. 

Botswana needs to introduce citizenship education as a compulsory subject in all public schools at all levels of the education system with the aim of giving students the knowledge, attitudes, behaviours and skills that would enable them to appreciate their nationality and help them function as active and responsible citizens. The subject is intended to develop young Batswana into becoming informed citizens who understand and are proud of whom they are; people who understand that political differences do not have to breedenmity. 

Citizenship education as a compulsory subject in schools is proposed as a deliberate national strategy to revive Botswana’s identity in the context of African Renaissance by informing young Batswana about the global context within which their lives are lived so that they are able to think global while acting local. Citizenship education would enable public schools to mould children into becoming curious, self-confidence and responsible citizens who understand that their rights inherently subsist alongside duties and responsibilities. 

For older people, efforts should be made to ensure that there are lifelong learning opportunities to help them introspect and alter their behaviours accordingly so that they walk, talk, eat and behave like a thoroughbred Motswana. Such opportunities would extend to our political leaders who more than often behave like they are under demonic attack. 



Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard August 2 – 8

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of August 2 - 8, 2020.