When the tents come down, the speakers are turned off, the banners dismantled and the dust literally settles down after celebrations and thanksgiving, it is back to reality for the small settlement of Zutshwa, in the western part of Botswana with a population of approximately 500 people.
The celebrations and thanksgiving were sparked by the Botswana Building Society recently when it staged a show stopper and displayed immense Corporate Social Responsibility after they built and furnished a library for Letswai Primary School in Zutshwa.
Zutshwa is situated in a prime wildlife area 151, adjacent to the Trans Kalahari.
It was described by Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe, who was the Guest Speaker at the handing over ceremony, a selfless gesture and as an advancement in the cause of creating equal opportunity for all.
BBS Board Chairman, Cross Kgosidile, stated that they aim to give support to projects which will have a lasting impact on Batswana and that is why they promptly and adequately responded to a plea from the people of Zutshwa for a library.
Kgosidile also gave special mention to publishers Macmillian Botswana, Longman Botswana, Medi Publishers, Pentagon and Botsalano Press who also contributed towards the library by providing books.
The library can accommodate a total of 50 students at a time and has all the amenities of a modern day library, including computers, printers, an ablution block with running water.
Provision of internet services will be carried out as soon as the necessary infrastructure is put into place.
All this was made possible by Douglas Phenol who constructed the library at no architectural costs, using local manpower despite the challenges of shortage of water and lack of electricity in the area.
Despite these generous deeds, gestures and contributions, the near future of the children that they were intended for remain bleak.
Upon arrival, the guests are welcomed by a group of starry eyed children whose ages are hard to determine at first glance because of their slightly below average body sizes. More than half of them are barefoot and the ice cold desert sand freely bounces up and around their cracked heels.
At the end of all the deliberations in the form of speeches, poetry song and dance, the library and equipment were handed over to the village chief, school headmistress and the Zutshwa community.
School Head, Ms Phatsimo Keagile, who has been with the school for close to a year, explained that her administration was doing their best to improve last year’s PSLE results which saw a meager 7 percent pass rate.
She stated that during her time in Zutshwa, through her staff’s efforts and her intervention, parents have shown signs of change and now show slightly more interest in their children’s education.
“There have been fewer dropouts and though still small, a few parents do turn up for Parent Teacher Association meetings.”
Keagile explained the biggest hurdles as their lack of resources coupled with the native’s lifestyles, citing that most parents stay in the fields and cattle posts and make it difficult for the smaller children who have to walk as far as 7 kilometers from their place of residence to the school.
“Some end up coming on Mondays and Wednesdays and not turning up for school for the rest of the week,” said Keagile, adding that it makes it difficult for them to be efficient for their part in the child’s learning process. Keagile reiterated that her staff was doing their best, like offering tutorials of which most children do not attend and giving extra credit work, like homework, most of which goes undone.
“To address this, we need to empower the community which also suffers from an inferiority complex stemmed in the belief that they come from a marginalized tribe.”
Chief Johannes Motlhasedi described the nature of the community that raised the children which this library was built for.
He echoed Keagile’s sentiments of the need to teach the community the importance of a good education. Another problem raised by Motlhasedi was the aspect of communication breakdown during the learning process. He explained that in most homesteads the Sesarwa language was used, however, the predominant one is Sekgalagadi and by the time they get to school, Setswana is a third language and English being a fourth.
The Chief further stated that Churches had setup pre primary schools of which very few people took their children to. The social ills that the Chief cited were alcohol abuse by the parents which led to negligence of their paternal and maternal responsibilities.
The biggest battle that the people of Zutshwa are currently faced with is crime; the Chief explained that the nearest Police Station to them was 70 kilometers away and that they could go for weeks living among criminals praying to God they do not attack again because no one has the right to apprehend charge and try them until the police come around.
The Chief made a plea to government to set up offices, engage the community and enlighten them on development trusts which will hopefully create a much needed paradigm shift for the children to have a chance at a brighter future.