One in four students at universities in Botswana is likely to report childhood sexual abuse, a study by the University of Botswana suggests. A study of 362 students enrolled at the University of Botswana found that 25% of them experienced childhood sexual abuse. About 23% of the students who reported childhood sexual abuse were male and 77% were females. The study linked childhood sexual abuse to harmful alcohol use, severe depression, failure to use contraceptives during sexual encounters, early sexual debut, and having multiple concurrent sexual partners.
The study, published in South African Journal of Psychology, and authored by a student, Ms Onalenna Phillip and her supervisor Prof Kennedy Amone-P’Olak, found significant differences between those who reported childhood sexual abuse and those with no history of sexual abuse on several mental health and behavioural outcomes. For example, about 36% of those who reported childhood sexual abuse initiated sexual activities before the age of 16 compared to 15% for those who did not report childhood sexual abuse.
Among those who reported childhood sexual abuse, 46% use contraceptives intermittently or not at all, 48% engaged in sex with multiple concurrent partners, 31% used alcohol hazardously, and 28% had severe depressive symptoms compared to 17%, 16%, 12%, and 13% of those who did not report childhood sexual abuse, respectively. The study demonstrates that childhood sexual abuse is widespread and common among every echelon of society including those in high socio-economic stratum as indicated in the socio-economic background of the students.
A confluence of family environmental factors that make children vulnerable to sexual abuse are discussed in the study. Among these factors are family conflicts, family dysfunction, domestic violence, drug and substance abuse, intergeneration sex for monetary gains, and traditional beliefs that young girls are free from sexually transmitted diseases. All these factors are common in Botswana and are known to put children in vulnerable situations in which they can be sexually abused.
For instance, girls raised by single mothers can be abused by their stepfathers, mothers’ boyfriends or relatives. Similarly, the traditional beliefs that older men can rejuvenate their sex lives by sleeping with young girls make girls, in particular, vulnerable to childhood sexual abuse.
The study recommends that government should adopt an integral approach that accounts for the efforts of multiple sectors as well as policies that reach greater levels of child protection and the protection of survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the country. Furthermore, universities and other institutions of higher learning focus on developing interventions to treat survivors with the view to reduce the negative and potentially toxic emotional and behavioural consequences of childhood sexual abuse.
For example, the study called for improved access to mental health services for survivors but hasten to add that, although counselling services are available on many university campuses, numerous barriers still exist that make it difficult for survivors to access services. Such barriers include lack of awareness, the location of the services, poor attitudes towards counselling, and stigma surrounding sex and mental illness. These barriers can be reduced by creating awareness, improving attitudes through education, and introducing anti-stigma campaigns to increase uptake of services for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.