We have been for 9 days in Botswana. We were in Phikwe, in a project called Child Aid.
Here in Selibe Phikwe, most of the people work in the mines but what happened last October changed everything!
For different reasons the mine closed and more than six thousand people lost their jobs. What Phikwe is going through now is a very sad reality. People do not have food on their table. Families who worked in the mine do not have any other job. From the TB screening door to door visits we could see that many of the families were ex miners workers and their situation is very sad. The peoples hope is that the mine will re-open next year. Even though working on the mine makes it much easier for TB to spread and even though that is one of the biggest death causing diseases, it is also people’s way of living. It is what pays them so they can put food on the table at least once a day. During our investigations we could conclude woman usually get married around 21 years old. An average family has between 4 to 6 kids but there are cases of families with 13 kids (it is not just one case) what makes it impossible to feed all the family if no one works. People begin to work in the mines around 13/14 years old and they used to work there for a lifetime.
The hope now for this 6000 people is that the mine actually reopens, there is many rumors that can happen so let’s hope for the best. Meanwhile we can test many of the mine workers for TB and HIV and that is very good because most of the times when there was door to door TB screening the miners were most of the time working. HIV test results can take up to one hour to get and TB one day.
During the investigations we also came to an understanding that both hospital and school are free or have very low fees and most of the children go to school. There are of course cases of drop out. All subjects in school are in English so most kids learn how to write and speak in English since their 6 or 7 years old. In school they are offered one or two meals (breakfast and lunch). A normal family has around 3 meals per day but now, with the situation of the mine closing that was kind of reduced to one. Children start to help their parents when they are 9 years old and the decisions at home are taken together. It is very normal to have woman on the government and has chiefs. It is quite easy for woman to have small businesses… that being selling the common “fat cakes” of Botswana, making food on the street or other kinds of businesses. But what we were told from the leaders of the Child Aid project is that when a woman depends on a man there are usually many cases of abuse in the family.
The government built around 860 houses this year (Phikwe area) so there is an improvement of people’s way of living. The common houses are made of bricks even if they are not painted and the mud houses start to see much less seen. Most of the people have easy access to water (doesn’t mean it is clean water) but electricity it’s still an issue.
Alcohol it is still a big problem in Botswana, more for man than woman but still it is unbelievable the number of woman who are in the pubs drinking. The government made a law that Pubs have to open at 3pm and close at 10pm in a way of making sure people spend less time on the pubs.
The biggest problem of this area it is unemployment. Factories closed last year, the mine close 2 months ago and there is thousands of people without a job. It is very hard to find one. Most graduates from school have no jobs even if they are qualified there is no market for them.
During our time in Phikwe we had the opportunity of having actions in the field where we went and made door to door TB screening and HIV testing, that action taught us a lot, we could easily see how people live, we were invited to their houses and they shared their food with us. Even tough they do not have much, even tough a family of 13 people has very few food and not a lot of hope, every single person we met was extremely friendly! That was with no doubt one of the most wonderful things we saw! Every person we met gave us a smile, offered us help and introduced us to their culture, they asked nothing in return during our time we made a friend who took us to two different Dance Youth groups who were performing for us with a talent that I cannot describe in words. There is no need of musical instruments after all to have the most brilliant spectacle and you do not need dance classes to know how to move properly! Art is in their blood and it is wonderful because you can see the feeling and how proud they are for representing Botswana culture!