GABORONE: Each day the youngsters brave an 18km walk to and from school amid threats of elephants that freely roam the area near the Sexaxa settlement north of Maun. Their parents arouse them as early as 3am. For young souls like seven-year-old Gaobakwe Mbwe, Keoagile Gaelemogwe, 8 and Lefeletse Tumeletso 8, the long walk to acquire education at Matlapana ward in Maun is very taxing.
Like the rest, they arrive at school tired and late. In class they doze and their performance is poor. Hunger takes its tall especially when they have afternoon recreational activities and lessons. "Our parents do not give us lunch packs when we leave home for school, which means that on study days, we spend the whole day hungry. Most of us come from poor families," said 11-year-old Keselepile Moetsi. The long road to education means that the pupils have an even rougher time during the rainy season. They arrive at school shivering and cold until their uniforms dry on their little bodies. Kgosi Nxokamo Moalosi of Sexaxa settlement says most of their children are always absent from school because of colds, flu and fever during the rainy season. He says the children sometimes hike to school but this is dangerous.
"We are no longer living in the olden days where taking care of a child and maintaining his safety was a responsibility of every elderly member of the society. Today, people have turned into monsters that rape, kidnap and mutilate children for 'muti' purposes. At times as parents we spend the whole day wondering if at all our children were going to return home," he stated.
The 74-year-old Moalosi became chief of Sexaxa settlement in 1974 after he moved with his Basarwa kinsmen from the Thamalakane River bank where they used to depend on fishing and molapo farming. They settled in Sexaxa because the land was owned by his grandfather. By then, Moalosi said people were settling wherever they wanted without the interference of the land board. The settlement now has about 1,017 people, he said.
"I quote this number because in the last population census, the people who were counting us said that there were 508 homesteads on our side and 509 across the road. With such a huge number of homes, it shows that our population has gone beyond 500, a number that qualifies a settlement's recognition as a village," he said. He asserted that Sexaxa hosts among other developments, the Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research Centre (HOORC), a health post and a Water Affairs borehole that supplies part of Maun.
"How can the council say that it cannot construct us a primary school when such a big and worldwide-recognised institute like HOORC is here? Does it really make sense?" the chief asked. He said they have held several meetings with area councillor Tapologo Mosika but their MP only sets foot at the settlement during election time. "We are told that he says he cannot come and address people whose settlement is not lawfully recognised," said Moalosi. He added that in the last meeting held with their councillor, residents suggested that storerooms constructed by the Village Development Committee (VDC) be turned into classrooms for Standard One and Two pupils. They sent the councillor to request the council to come and inspect the buildings and provide with teachers.
Mosika confirmed the chief's statement saying that all his efforts to fight for a school in Sexaxa have been turned down by the council. He stated that he had referred the matter of the storeroom to the relevant authorities and he is waiting for a reply. "I wanted them to go with me to the settlement so that they could view and approve the buildings for use. Up to now, they haven't come back to me as they promised. You see, advocating for people when you are not a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) councillor in this country, lands on deaf ears. And when campaign time comes they will win people's heart by lying to them that you were a failure," said the Botswana National Front (BNF) man.
Northwest District Council secretary Paulos Nkoni said they are not in a position to construct a school in Sexaxa because the settlement's population is below 500. However, he said he was not quite sure about the number of people in the settlement. "But what I know is that had it reached 500, the settlement would have been long considered as a village," he said.
He expressed sympathy for the pupils but said they are not the responsibility of the council. "We are not the relevant department to handle such an issue. We only come in on matters of development," he said.