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The plight of Gathoka children



Dikabelo Baganne of Gathoka settlement, a stone’s throw away from Molepolole would love to be a pilot, but the 12 year old girl’s dream seems far-fetched due to circumstances surrounding her family background.

The standard six pupil at Lephaleng Primary School is open about what she fears would make her dream not come true. “I’m suffering. I don’t have school uniform, I don’t have clothes and I depend on donations,” she told The Midweek Sun this week. The young girl has dropped from an A student to C over the years.

She has eight siblings, who have children of their own to take care of.  Her older sister Boitshwarelo Baganne says that she-Dikabelo, has since started performing unsatisfactorily in her studies. She explained that parents at Gathoka neglect their children for alcohol.

“Our parents drink too much. They neglect children and this frustrates them from a tender age,” she says. She narrates that children from Gathoka often start school from the age of 12 due to lack of parental care. Others quit school along the way. According to the older sister, young girls from the settlement resort to giving themselves to men, something she says has led to increasing teenage pregnancies in the area.

The 34 year-old mother of three had her first child at the age of 17. She survives by doing piece jobs in Molepolole. Her other young sister Boikhutso Baganne, 17, became a mother at the age of 16. She was doing Form three when she fell pregnant and had a promising future as a renowned soccer star at school.

Her dream, she says, is to become a nurse and that would only happen if a Good Samaritan could come to her rescue and connect her with social workers. “I love my baby but he is the reason I’m stuck here. None of my family members want to help me with him but I really want to go back to school,” she says.

A community activist from Molepolole Khumo Motsemme says she has visited Gathoka residents several times. She pointed out that children’s lives were unpleasant, citing being sexually molested by Zimbabweans as a leading problem. She states that more than 50 children do not go to school due to lack of parental care and support from their alcoholic parents.

Girls, from as young as 14 have become ‘sexually active’ and this she says, is driven by extreme poverty in their families. A lot of time, she adds, mothers go to shebeens with children which puts their lives at risks. Boys often leave school from as young as Standard two. “These people are a true epitome of poverty and children feel it the most,” she says.

A teacher from Lephaleng Primary School says pupils from Gathoka are generally known to be poor performers due to their circumstances. “They record a rising number of absentees and poor grades. Some come to school dirty and without uniforms,” she says.

Gathoka falls under Lekgwapheg ward in Molepolole. Social worker Goitse Barupi did not want to be drawn into an interview, and referred this reporter to Kweneng senior assistant council secretary Gofaone Kgabanyane, who was reported to be out of the country.

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The MidweekSun Admin



University of Botswana students are bracing themselves for the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections. Contenders are fighting tooth and nail to appease the electorate. Three camps are in contention to fill the 13 council positions.

Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) Moono-wa-Baithuti has the onerous task of defending all the 13 seats which they hauled at the last elections of 2018. “As Moono wa Baithuti, we have lots of achievements. We are on the verge of getting the student bar open, so we need to go back and fix what we started,” said UDC’s Tumelo Legase who is vying for the position of Vice President.

He said they have advocated for student empowerment policies and are also proposing a third arm of student representation. “We have the SRC and the Judiciary, what we need is the student Parliament so that we have a large number of leaders who can independently attend to problems across the university.” The dark horse in this race is the University of Botswana’s Alliance for Progressive (AP) which will take another leap of faith despite their loss in the previous election.

They are rejuvenated and redefined. Candidate for Vice President Karabo Bokwe said central to their mandate is making the welfare of the student community a priority. “We want to help eradicate school policies that border on oppression, and through new polices call for initiatives that come with enterprenuership benefits to students.”

AP candidate for Information and Publicity, a first year Criminal Justice student Gracious Selelo said they are more united than other parties even at national level. “We don’t have internal squabbles within our party, we are more focused and can deliver our mandate easily,” she noted.

However the ruling party’s BDP GS-26 will come with all guns blazing after an embarrassing defeat in the previous elections. Preparations have been made and the GS-26 is looking to take the elections by storm.

According to their Presidential Candidate Boniface Seane, they come with the message of hope that addresses the current status quo at the University.“The university is not functioning so we drew three policies that embrace inclusiveness. We want to lead collectively with the students, through the student body meetings which the previous SRCs have failed to do. “We will consult with the students with no discrimination.”

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Healthcare system to improve



The Health ministry has developed a seven-point programme to guide the country in improving the healthcare system, says Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Rabashemi Madigele.

“The seven priority areas will serve as a roadmap and a guardian angel towards improving the overall healthcare system and increasing access to health care while fighting the burden of disease that confronts us,” said Madigele at Masa Square Hotel on Tuesday.

The focal areas include decentralisation; Universal Health Coverage, Tertiary Care, Strategic leveraging on the Private sector; Supply Chain; Research as well as Staff welfare and accountability.
Point-one of the seven priority areas according to Dr Madigele is about empowering the District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) and transforming them into fully fledged Regional Health Authorities.

“In this case, they will be rationalised from 27 to 18 and have the authority to hire A and B Scales, promote up to C1 and manage micro procurement,” he said. Point two is about improving the quality of healthcare services. “The main causes of mortality and their risk factors in Botswana are Primary Health Care issues,” Dr Madigele said.

He added that “Our efforts for the attainment of Universal Health Coverage should thus focus on: Prevention; Comprehensive screening; Early treatment; and Surveillance at the community.”
This he said, would require revamped grassroots efforts in which adequate numbers of community health workers through partnerships with the non-governmental sector will be deployed as necessary.

According to Dr Madigele, the top five causes of death in Botswana in 2017 were HIV/AIDS, Ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and Diabetes. He said compared to 2007, NCDs among these had increased in burden by an average of 34%. The top five risk factors related to these causes of mortality were unsafe sex; poor diet; high blood pressure; alcohol abuse and tobacco use.

Improving the quality of care, Madigele said will also include the safety and security of patients; attitudes of staff as experienced by patients; time taken in queues either before seeing a health worker or receiving medication and the availability of drugs.

Meanwhile, the health minister revealed that the commissioning of Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) is ongoing with the facility scheduled for opening on April 24th. “This will be a phased approach commencing with some services including paediatric oncology, internal medicine, rheumatology and endocrinology, diagnostic radiology, laboratory services and pharmacy”.

A phased commissioning of SKMTH will reduce overdependence on South Africa for referrals, reduce costs and also institutionalise provision of super specialist services within Botswana.

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