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!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


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.)

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