July 2010

The Department of Political Science, with the assistance of the Division of International Studies & Programs at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK), is pleased to introduce its Botswana Program - a unique joint partnership between TAMUK and the University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana.

The Program is being directed by Dr. Nirmal Goswami, Professor of Political Science, TAMUK, and co-directed by Dr. Leapetswe Malete and Dr. Maitseo Bolaane, University of Botswana.

The Program will include twelve students traveling to and staying in Botswana from July 7th through July 23rd, attending classes at the University of Botswana, and visiting multiple sites through field trips within Botswana. Areas of focus include history, politics, economics, culture, health, environmental policies, etc., with reference to both Botswana and Southern Africa.

This blog will document our experience. You are welcome to post comments.

You are all invited to cyber travel with us as we learn about the unique and beautiful country of Botswana!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Education in Botswana

In Botswana, education is free for everyone. In the more rural areas, schools can be quite far, but it seems if a family wishes their children to be educated they can. Botswana has a mix of both public and private schools much like the rest of the world. However, both public and private schools require students to wear uniforms. These uniforms are not just the khaki pants and polo shirt that some schools in Texas require students to wear. Students in Botswana wear button down shirts, sweater, tie, trousers (pleated skirts for girls) and hat. We understood this to be a tradition based on British customs. For those students who live too far away from a school, which often includes students from minority groups like the Sans, there is a government program that “boards” the students away from home so that they can receive an education. This was a bit of a shock to me, one because I know the US tried something like this with the Native American population and it did not work out so well for us, and second because I could not stand to be separated from my child. On the other hand, in isolated rural areas, how else can children access education? It might not be the best situation, but at least the Botswana government is trying to do something.
At the university level, if students pass the appropriate tests and have the required grades, their university costs are provided by the government. That means, for about 4-5 years, tuition, books, board, food, and a stipend are paid by the Botswana government. When we went to the American Embassy, they told us that the living allowance for students had been recently reduced and caused many students to protest. Our presenter said, “It’s hard to sympathize with them when US students have thousands of dollars in loans to pay back to our government and banks.” It is a good point but it also means that the United States, with the largest economy in the world, cannot provide sufficient support for most Americans to get college degrees while some countries do.
Another problem one of our presenters discussed involved students from minority groups like the San. Such students, living in isolated communities, do not always have adequate educational opportunities to start with. This makes it harder for them to qualify for university admission. As a response, through a program at the University of Botswana, San students with academic potential are assisted in accessing both university and technical college programs. Many students initially perceived to be “not qualified” for higher education, pursue higher education degrees this way.
The University of Botswana motto, translated, means, “education as a shield.” Botswana has used their diamonds to build the most valuable resource a country can have, an educated majority. They have invested their money wisely. The country’s diamond-based resources could not have been spent on anything better, for when the diamonds run out, the education will still be there.

Katharine K.

False Alarm!

The first night in Gabs could not have been more frightening. A group of us decided to go out on the town. We had our next door neighbor call us a taxi because none of us had cell phones. Since it was our first night out, we did not know what the taxi was going to look like. When two tiny beat up cars pulled up, we were all a little skeptical because they did not have anything on them that said taxi. Everyone decided to trust them, and we split up in the two cars because there was so many of us. The first stop light we go to, the first car turns right and my car goes straight. Every single muscle in my body gets tense and I just start preparing myself for the doom I was about to face. I tried to remember how to get back to campus, but the driver was taking too many turns. The cab driver, Mustafa, got a call from who we imagined was the other driver. No of us could understand the conversation because it was in Setswana. I was eyeballing Caleb, and I could tell he knew what was going on. I looked over at Anthony, and he was clueless. Caleb and I never said a word, but we knew we were not going down without a fight. I was just hoping Anthony would join in as well. Before we had a chance to put the driver in a headlock, we arrived at our destination. The other group was already there. It turns out that our driver had misunderstood where we were going, but that phone call he had during the cab ride cleared everything up.
Mustafa actually seemed worried about us getting worried! The whole time he was doing the right thing. Moral of the story: we all have a tendency to be suspicious of things, especially when you visit a “developing” country. And then you experience a situation where someone does the right thing. That always makes you feel better about the world!

Amanda W.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Botswana: The Place

You notice it first from the air as you fly over the country and then you notice it again as soon as you land in Gaborone, the country’s largest city, also its capital and biggest airport. Botswana has a lot of space but not too many people. It is a big country but a small place. And it has a gentle rhythm. No one is in a hurry. Airport officials, airline staff, university employees, cab drivers, everyday people, move and work without frenzy. A general ambiance of politeness and pleasantry is pervasive. There is much to be admired about this.
The University of Botswana (UB) has been a gracious institutional host for us. We have had presentations by UB faculty members from multiple disciplines covering politics, history, culture, economics, the environment, etc., and they all have been high quality. The overall academic program was excellently organized by Professor Maitseo Bolaane from UB’s Department of History. All of the presentations have been immeasurably educational. Presentations were supplemented by a variety of field trips to places of interests in both urban and rural settings, including spending a night in a village and touring a small game park. We have learned a lot about this unique country in the short time spent here.
Botswana may have a small population but it has significant diversity. It is essentially a bilingual country with English and Setswana as the primary languages. However, other languages are used by non-Setswana tribes in some parts of the country. Differences in the opportunities between major tribes and other population groups are among both economic and political issues. And, as in many countries, despite strides made by women in diverse areas, gender inequities remain. The country has been remarkably stable since gaining independence from Britain in the sixties and has remained committed to the principles of a multi-party parliamentary democracy and market economy. It has a vibrant and free press, vigorous opposition parties, and significant policy debates. Differences regarding national policies, in many policy areas, were evident in the presentations we attended at UB. In literature too, Botswana’s depth goes much beyond the popular No. 1 Ladies Detective Series.
The country has achieved strong economic growth and it has used it well. Both urban and rural populations have access to basic services like safe water, primary health care, primary education, postal services, electricity, telephones, and roads. The images of poverty associated with sub-Saharan Africa are not evident in Botswana. These successes have also attracted illegal immigrants from other countries, especially from neighboring Zimbabwe. UB is the country’s premier institution of higher education and it has students and faculty from several countries. The many economic gains of Botswana have been possible because of diamonds. The discovery of diamonds after independence changed the country’s fortune. That, also, is one of Botswana’s biggest challenges. The economy is largely dependent on this one finite resource. How the country manages its future when the diamond industry declines is one of Botswana’s major current policy issues. Also, its small population does not make Botswana a significant market or labor center for Botswana to be considered as a potential operational base by major global economic players. Further, Botswana’s struggles with the HIV virus are widely known; these struggles continue to be critical to the country. Botswana’s geographic circumstances offer limited opportunities for economic diversity; the economy is also very closely tied with just one country, its big southern neighbor – South Africa. These are the looming issues for Botswana.
An enduring image that all we talked with conveyed about Botswana centers around the role of the Village. The Village is almost a soul in the lives of the citizens of Botswana. It is the place referred by all as “home.” Many in Botswana are determined to continue to live in villages while staying in urban areas. This desire is part of who the Batswana are. From what we have seen, if anyone can do it, it will be the Batswana. They take care of their souls.
Ke a leboga, Botswana!

Dr. Goswami

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Familiar Issue, a Familiar Policy, a Familiar Problem

We were all so excited to have had our first field trip in Botswana and NO CLASSES. On Wednesday, we took a day to visit a San Village, and there I learned so much about families and how they live outside of Gaborone. What caught my attention the most was their seeming isolation. Access to transportation and services like health care seemed limited. There is a clinic in the village which is usually staffed by a nurse but the clinic had not had a nurse for sometime. On our visit, I was lucky enough to see how a government group delivers food and other necessities to families in need. As I spoke to a young lady from the university, I asked her about how this program worked and she mentioned that social workers evaluate families to determine if they qualify for assistance. If approved, the families receive vegetables, powdered soup, maize meals, flour, sugar, cooking oil, 8 pints of milk, and they get a stipend to purchase meat locally. The lady who I spoke with was very upset by this because she said that since the programs provide so much food every day, and the family members do not have to work, that this sometimes lead to fraud when ineligible people take advantage of these programs. This led me to think about how this situation is very similar to ours in Texas. I related the situation with the San village to poor families in Texas who receive food and welfare services from the government. Everything seemed so similar to our situation back home; the way some people are so upset at those who fraudulently receive government services.
I intriguingly noted that Botswana and my country have similar societal problems, similar government policies and similar spillover issues.

Ruby T.

The Joy of a Balanced Cuisine

When people think about the traditions and customs of societies across the globe, food is often reflected upon in order to help understand the culture. As many of us know, the common cuisine in a country usually depicts a history that is unique to a certain region. Although some meals may not sound as appetizing as others, we must keep in mind that food plays an integral role in every society, and while there are infinite variations of food, each society has adapted to its individual allocated resources.
Here, in Gaborone, Botswana, the food we have been served thus far has been unique and delightful. Beef, sorghum, and chicken are among the primary food staples in abundant supply in this area. Therefore, we have eaten them for virtually every meal. A fixture in every major meal here is the attention given to dietary balance. Salads with light dressing, healthy servings of vegetables, and almost always: boiled/mashed butternut squash. The emphasis here on balanced meals as part of a daily cuisine is something to be admired. In addition to having three main meals every day, we have also engaged in the local tradition of drinking hot tea with a muffin sometime after breakfast. This practice has allowed the students here to receive additional energy and maintain more concentration. All in all, the experience we have had has been eye-opening. I have not only been able to consume exquisite food on this trip, but also learn about an intricate culture while doing so.

Mark D.

The Power of Images

It has been my life long dream to go to Africa and to get to come with this amazing group of students has been the experience of a lifetime! I majored in Political Science in the 1980s and this trip has reminded me of the reasons I was drawn to the subject.
We have experienced a lovely sample of the rich culture and history of the people of Botswana. We have tasted the food, participated in traditional ceremonies, heard stimulating lectures, visited villages, museums, art galleries, NGOs, and a San settlement. We have talked with faculty, staff, students, vendors, cab drivers, widows and children. We have fallen in love with the people and this beautiful country. Botswana allowed us to experience the best of Africa in a peaceful and hospitable country where tribal tradition requires individual to openly discuss grievances before they escalate. They stand as an example of the widespread value of open communication to promote peace.
We leave this country richer because of what we experienced. We will take back images of both faces and places with us. All of these images will enrich our lives for forever. We will always view this part of Africa through those images. I will forever remain grateful for this experience.

Ginger G.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bodungwane, Botswana

Since arriving in Botswana we have not spent much time outside of Gaborone. That changed today when we visited the village of Bodungwane. A village is one of the most important aspects of life in Botswana. Every person in Botswana associates “home” with a specific village.
Bodungwane is about 70 km northwest of Gaborone and is also the home to one of the students sponsored UB’s Research Centre for San Studies. The dwellings in the village mirrored what most us have only seen through pictures in National Geographic issues. The grass roofed huts were complemented by stick fences that enclosed family lots. The lot was immaculately maintained, the dwellings, while modest, were beautifully made and in excellent shape. The villagers all looked to be in good health. Chickens roamed freely while donkeys remained in the background.Wealth was not in abundance but neither was the poverty that we stereotypically associate with Africa. In the village, Dr. Bolaane, our academic director from UB, gave us an excellent insight into village life. She also facilitated our interactions with members of the family we met. We shared lunch with them and reveled in their hospitality.
After visiting the family we embarked on a dirt path through the brush that led us to the local clinic which served as a primary health facility. At the clinic we were fortunate enough to witness a government food distribution program in action. Government officials were re-supplying the village with maize and other essential goods. Villagers responded to a series of honks from the supply truck and arrived at the clinic within minutes to receive the supply items. The officials verified the identity of the recipients by checking their computerized national ID cards. A few villagers used donkey carts to carry home their supplies.
The modesty of the region served as a brief reprieve from the busy streets of Gaborone and the noisy sounds of development. The experience in Bodungwane made me realize that I am the proverbial “outsider looking in” on a culture that is different from my own. However, I have liked what I have seen. “Reteng,” we are here!

Caleb F.


We arrived on campus and were shown our dorm rooms by our student volunteers, Malebogho and Bolouki. Pretty standard dorms with a bed, desk, bookshelp and quite a large closet. The girls gave us a brief orientation which included admonishments about locking ourselves out of our room. Then, when I went to open one of the window, the whole window pane fell out and crashed to the ground three stories below. Malebogo and Bolouki found the security guard who then escorted the three of us to the security office where I was required to fill out a statement. The head of security and I had a brief discussion about who was going to pay for the damages (certainly not me!) and then the girls led me back to the dorms. On the way back, I commented that I hadn't seen any women smoking cigarettes and Bolouki said, "Only bad girls smoke".
Of course.

The next evening, I left my room which was locked but guess what? I left my keys in the room!! That meant another trip to security and I begged Dr Goswami to come with me, but he very "meanly" refused (actually Dr. Goswami knew I could handle the situation!). I was on my own. Anita volunteered to come with me and suggested that we not identify who the culprit was; just to say "one of the girls". That worked until they Warden opened my door for me and I was so delighted I insisted on giving him and the two accompanying security ladies a big hug. Only two days in the country and I already have a reputation.

One of our field trips was to a San settlement. We were shown the local pub which was, unfortunately closed, but all around the pub were one litre milk containers, or so I thought. Dr. Mai picked one up and explained that it was the local brew, Chibukui or Shake Shake (so named because you have to shake it well before consuming). On the way back to the university,we stopped in Artesia, a smallish town, at one of the ShakeShake places and I bought a litre of the stuff to try. Sitting on one of the benches was a Motswana woman who was obviously in her cups. The only way to get ShakeShake down is to close your eyes, chug and ignore the texture and taste. The woman, whose name is Pekena, kept saying "Good eh?" to which I would reply, "It's okay." She demanded a cigarette from one the group who directed her to me. I sat beside her and giving her a cigarette, I said, "you know, only bad girls smoke." Pekena bowed her head and muttered quietly, "But I have no job." I left her my last two cigarettes and the rest of my ShakeShake when we left.
Unemployment is around 17% in Botswana and wages in the sevice sector are not very high. Like any other place in the world, job opportunities in smaller areas are less. People like Pekena, even if the could find a job, would probably not make enough money to survive. The unemployment statistics were not broken down into gender, and I wonder if women here are more unemployed and if they are employed, are they getting the better paying jobs.?
The present president, Mr. Ian Khama, has focused some of his policy on the problem of alcholism. We saw evidence of alcoholism at the Shakeshake bars - shakeshake is only 5 pula which is less than a dollar. Compared to a Heineken which is 15-20 pula, so those who have less money can afford to drown their sorrows. Is alcoholism and unemployment related? Probably, if Pekena is any indication. Botswana has its unique social problems and thanks to our lectures and the very fine professors who have guided us thus far, I believe I have a greater understanding of what problems Batswana face for the future.

Beth M. (A mother of a 23 year old and a registered nurse in Canada who beleives in life-long learning. Beth is taking this course as a non-credit "continuig education" student.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

The “Southern Hospitality” of Southern Africa

Enthusiastic “Dumelas!” (Setswana for “hello”) accompanied by warm smiles, have been common greetings since arriving in Botswana. From the moment we got off the plane, we've been shown exceptional kindness and generosity from the people we've met. From the student assistants in our program, Baluki and Malebogo; Univeristy of Botswana professors; university staff like Gift who works at the faculty cafeteria; cab drivers such as Happy and Dempo, who have cheerfully taken us around to various sites in the city; and fellow football fans watching the World Cup final with us. The people of Gaborone have been open to sharing their time, advice, opinions, experiences, culture, and language with us. Some, such as the family whose property we wandered upon after getting lost at Kgale Hill, have even opened their homes to us.

The experience so far in Botswana reminds me of a kind of hospitality not unlike the classic “southern hospitality” shown by people in towns across the American South. While many of the sights and sounds are exciting and new, Gaborone possesses a very familiar small town feel in regards to people's warmth and willingness to make us feel welcome. The welcoming nature of the people seems also to be reflected in the nation's role in the greater Southern African region. Whether it is to refugees from neighboring nations seeking safety or students from halfway across the world coming to experience its culture, Botswana seems to be a nation of welcoming and accepting people.

Aaron H.

History, Art, and Where We All Started?

The exhibits at the Botswana National Museum in Gaborone took us through Botswana history. The museum also had an art gallery which displayed contemporary paintings by artists in Botswana. We saw beautiful modern paintings in the gallery. Walking though the museum offered an opportunity to see the beginning of life in Africa, from the insects and plants to the actual human skulls of the first natives. Further into the museum I was able to read about their agricultural development and their discovery of diamonds. Something that I found interesting was how one of the tribes which fled to Botswana to get away from oppression in neighboring countries believed in a Tree God. The many ancient beliefs of the people of Botswana are still a daily part of life here today, and from what I have heard through the many presentations at the Univ. of Botswana, the struggle to retain a living link between a cherished past and a changing present is one Botswana’s biggest issues. It is interesting that the many tribes of Botswana still remain very traditional. Another thing I found interesting while in the museum was the history about the caves. The people of Botswana believed that the caves had magic power and that a Snake God guarded it. Thus they would often put their valuables in the caves to keep them safe. They would also place “inorganic” objects in the caves, including twins. Twins were mystifying and considered to be unreal and “inorganic.” After reading this it made me realize how special and rare twins must have been. Being a twin myself, this was most fascinating to me! I find beliefs in different regions to be fascinating because it documents the growth of cultures. The birth of man, for the people of Botswana, is believed to have occurred through a hole in a place called Matsieng. The Batswana know this from the ancient footprints which surround this hole, a hole which always has water, when there is none anywhere around. May be this is where we all started!

Leyda O.

Searching for a Mountain

My experience in Gaborone, Botswana (Southern Africa) has been very exciting. I feel like I have been here longer than a week even though I still have difficulty understanding the subtleties of the English spoken here. On a day off we decided to go hiking up nearby Kgale Hill. Because Kgale is out of Gaborone, we had to take a combi, which is much like a mini bus, to get there. Once we were there we saw how beautiful the mountain was and immediately got excited about the beautiful view of Gaborone we were sure to get from the top.
It never happened!
As we walked through the narrow trails we were paying attention to all the beautiful trees and keeping track of our steps to make sure we would not get lost. We noticed the trail was sometimes golden brownish and sometimes reddish. This made me remember the trails in my family’s ranch in Texas. As we hiked for about two hours we noticed we were not climbing up the mountain, so we decided to take a different route. That route started going “up,” but only for while. After that we were mostly walking every way except up. We walked, and then we walked more. Two hours later we only recognized the sky and no other landmarks. That was not helpful. We were officially lost! We did not see anyone else. It was very quiet, except for the birds. Finally, we saw power lines through the tress. We hoped the lines were by the road we took to get to Kgale Hill. We used the power line posts as landmarks, headed towards them and tumbled onto a gravel road. It was definitely not the road we had used. Then we saw the peacocks. They had come out of a compound of a house. We went to the house, knocked on the door and met a wonderful family. They seemed somewhat surprised to see thirteen strangers on their front yard but still greeted us. Once we explained the situation we were politely told that we were about 5 kilometers from where we should have been! The family we met included several young ladies, children, and three dogs. Since we had the phone number of the combi driver who had taken us to Kgale, our new best friends called up the combi which then came and picked us up. We had wonderful conversations with the family and took pictures while waiting for our ride. They were very lovely, just as most of the people we have met in Botswana, so friendly. As we drove away we saw how far we were from our starting point and had a good laugh despite the long walk. I feel like each day we grow closer and closer as a group and as a “family” like Dr. Goswami would say. We interact with each other and have been enjoying each other’s company more and sharing our different opinions and experiences here in this amazing country. I cannot wait to learn more about this country and its people, who, by the way, are called Batswana.

Ruby T.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Botswana Past, Present and Future: UB Faculty Share Their Expertise and Enthusiasm Through Lectures

On July 12 and 13, TAMUK students had the opportunity to attend lectures with University of Botswana faculty Dr. Wazha Morapedi of the History Department, Dr. Maitseo Bolaane and Mr. Leema Hiri of the Research Center on San Studies, and Dr. Ndana of the English Language/Literature Department.
Dr. Morapedi’s lecture, “An Overview of Botswana History and the Kgotla system,” took us on a breathtaking historical journey that spanned more than 600 years. His story began with the migration of the Central African Bantu-speaking people into the region after 1200 A.D. and the subsequent displacement of the indigenous people now known as the Basarwa/San; Dr. Morapedi then described the shared ancestral origins of the Tswana speaking tribes of Botswana, the democratic tendencies of their kgotla system of local administration, and the agricultural basis of pre-colonial society, emphasizing the centrality of cattle husbandry to the nation’s traditional economy, society and culture. He then described the Mefcane upheavals caused by the expansionist ambitions of King Shaka (of the Zulu nation in today’s South African Transvaal), as well as the impact of British missionaries and European trade on Batswana tribes during the 19th century, before explaining the process by which the region became a British Protectorate in 1885. Dr. Morapedi continued by telling us the story of Botswana’s complex relationship with South Africa, Batswana participation in World War II, and the independence process which culminated with Sir Seretse Khama’s election as the nation’s first president in 1966. We concluded with a brief discussion of the nation’s development since then, including the discovery of diamonds in 1968 and the massive investment in national infrastructure that has allowed what the United Nations once classified as one of the world’s poorest countries to blossom into a politically stable, middle income nation whose university attracts students from many African nations as well as hosting European and North American students and researchers.
Dr. Bolaane and Mr. Hiri’s talk introduced us to the work of the University of Botswana’s Research Center for San Studies, a UB center that grew out of more than a decade of collaboration with the University of Tromso in Norway. Building on Dr. Morapedi’s introduction to the origins of Basarwa/San displacement as early as the 1200s, Dr. Bolaane detailed the challenges facing San communities today, including poverty, lack of access to educational and health facilities, and the persistence of social stigmas which prevent their full and equal participation in society. Mr. Hiri described his work in the RCSS Youth Capacity Building program, which identifies promising San youth and provides funding and support for them to pursue tertiary education at colleges and universities in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Both Dr. Bolaane and Mr. Hiri emphasized the importance of education in helping the Basarwa/San community in achieving their goals of self-determination and equality within a Tswana majority nation.
Dr. Ndana’s lecture, “Reteng: The Multicultural Coalition of Botswana,” opened our eyes to the reality of diversity in the nation, challenging the notion that the Batswana are a culturally homogenous people. He began by establishing the linguistic foundations of existence for all peoples, and then spoke about the complexities of language and ethnic identities in Botswana, emphasizing the need for a national language policy that acknowledges all of the 28 to 32 languages currently spoken here. Dr. Ndana then shared with us his work with the nation’s Reteng multicultural coalition, which promotes multicultural research and legal reform, fosters connections with government and NGO allies, and advocates for the preservation of the nation’s linguistic and cultural heritage . Dr. Ndana stressed that multiculturalism, sometimes understood as a divisive force, can also empower and mobilize citizens in the pursuit of shared goals—facilitating economic diversification, enriching education and cultural production, and instilling a feeling of belonging and worth for all Batswana, regardless of their tribal or ethnic origin.
Each of these lectures has deepened our understanding of Botswana’s history, society and culture, and has provided us with new opportunities to reflect upon the parallel challenges we face as citizens of the U.S. and Canada. We thank them for graciously sharing their expertise with us and for infusing us with their enthusiasm, pride and confidence in their nation. We look forward to upcoming lectures that will carry us further in our journey through Botswana’s past, present and future!

Anita B.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Church Day in Gaborone, Botswana

Beth, Anita, Leyda, and I went to church on Sunday in downtown Gaborone. It was a real eye opener. I always pray I will make it to heaven. I imagine all of my loved ones waiting for me and getting to meet my ancestors. The service was fantastic. The priest looked like Chris Rock, and my favorite part was the sign of peace because you could feel the love in the air when everyone was greeting each other. When the service ended, a true Botswana part of the church began. Our group was given the opportunity to adopt four children for a day. We did! The church has around 130 orphans. They raise money to allow the orphans to have a fun day. I was so impressed at how much the community is doing to take care of each other, and I feel blessed to have been a part of it for a day.

Amanda W

The San of Botswana

Over the course of my five days in Gaborone, I have liked what I have seen. The city is vibrant, the people welcoming, and the food satisfying. There is never a time to for rest in a place this lively. I have been warned, however, of a somewhat sorrowful side to the success story that is Botswana. It is a narrative repeated worldwide and it is the tale of the San (known as Bushmen in the west) minority and their struggle as an indigenous people.

Dr Maitseo Bolaane of the University of Botswana Research Centre on San Studies has made us aware that the San are very much akin to the Native Americans or Aborigines of the US and Australia respectively. Marginalized by the main Setswana-centric political environment of Botswana, their living conditions are poor compared to the remainder of the population. Also, their economic opportunities are limited by their Kalahari Desert location. The government is often more of a hindrance than a help, forcing the San off of lands for a game preserve in 1997 and 2000 and providing poor educational facilities through Botswana’s Remote Area Dwellers Program. The San have had little success politically since their voting patterns are often influenced by the big farmers who employ them. There is no San Member of Parliament or major organizations representing San interests.

And yet, ironically, it is the San who are pushed to the forefront of tourism promotion programs as representing the exciting, indigenous, and exotic side of Botswana.

Botswana is a wonderful country and I have yet to experience even a fraction of what it has to offer, but perhaps in its quest for development and unity (to avoid the fates of many of its neighbors), some of Botswana’s most beautiful aspects have been sacrificed at the altar of stability.

Anthony F

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Places in Gaborone

Botswana may be a developing country but one of the first things you sense is the pride that its citizens take in their country. For instance, we visited the Three Chiefs Monument. It is a national monument about the history of Botswana and the three founding fathers of modern Botswana. Just as we look at our founders in the United States as men who overcame odds to establish a nation based on principles of freedom and equality, the Three Chief Monuments describes the struggles Botswana faced and the basis of the core values which led to development of Botswana as an independent nation. Our tour guide kept our interest throughout the whole tour because he spoke with great passion and pride about his country and its history. We also visited the National Museum here in Gaborone, and somewhere during my walk through the museum I ended up behind some children aged 6-11 years. What caught my interest about these children was the simple fact that they were all so interested in the exhibits and taking their time to read the brief paragraphs posted below each exhibit. It showed a sense of pride and knowledge for their country, and perhaps a thirst for knowledge in general. This was so great to see and so moving to see such young kids having a thirst for knowledge. I didn’t know what to expect from the people of Botswana, but they are extremely friendly, perhaps as friendly as us Texans. At first when driving into Gaborone it totally reminded me of Kingsville, as far as appearance, but when we were in the van and saw a monkey in the backyard of a tree; there was no doubting we were in Africa! Overall, I am enjoying my visit here in Gaborone.
Adriana M