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Kgathi forces refugee students out of schools

The government of Botswana through Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi has ordered Minister of Basic Education, Bagalatia Arone to compile academic records and transfers for the Namibian refugee students in Botswana in what the migrants have termed “forceful and unfair relocation”.

The government’s hard-line stance on the refugees follows a decision by 947 Namibian migrants at Dukwi Refugee Camp to resist voluntary repatriation to their country of origin. The idea to force the Namibians to return to their country is subsequent to the lapse of their refugee status. Kgathi invoked the cessation clause in 2015 but the refugees are still on grace period. The refugees have been given up to the 11th of July to have registered for repatriation to their country of origin. Kgathi says failure to comply will result in them being declared illegal immigrants.

The ministry of Defence has apart from education authorities, written to Ministry of Health and Wellness instructing it to pile up refugees’ medical records as they are left with only 18 days in Botswana.  “We had a meeting last week with a delegation from Namibia and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) where we discussed processes not to endanger their lives,” Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence Justice and Security, Segakweng Tsiane said.

She added that, “There are issues of health, education and housing which are very essential in repatriation. It is true we are compiling their academic records so that there will be smooth coordination when they get there (Namibia).” She says the information should be collected so as to understand how many would need education and at what levels. Further, “others are on medication, and we should give our Namibians counterparts statistics as to how many need Anti-retroviral Therapy or any other medical assistance so as we don’t deny anyone their basic rights.”

The refugee students are scattered all over the Central District region with 22 of them at Nata Senior School. Others are at Francistown, Tutume and Masunga, Tsiane added. “We don’t know what is going to happen to our kids who are about to sit for their national examinations since the government is insisting that they will be removed from schools with immediate effect.

Remember most of these kids are Batswana by birth, in Nata for example 21 of those were born here,” said Caprivi community spokesperson, Felix Kakula when delivering a petition at SADC to block their repatriation this week.  “Those writing exams like PSLE, JCE and BGCSE may proceed immediately after July 11th others will then follow suit,” said Tsiane.


NAMIBIANS REFUSE TO LEAVE

The Namibian refugees have promised to fight a spirited war to defeat government efforts to repatriate them to Namibia.  “The problem is not yet solved. We are not going to register to go back, it is better someone throws you in fire than throwing yourself on [fire]. We want Caprivi to be an independent state as it was before the Namibian government annexed it or there should be negotiations,” said Kakula.

Another member of the Caprivi community, Bothman Ntesa who spoke to this paper supported Kakula. “Wherever the government of Botswana takes us to we will go, in fact we are going to the centre of illegal immigrants in Francistown if at all they will take us there. The registration to go back has long started but only seven have done so,” he stated standing in front of the SADC headquarters.

“Those who do not register may not be eligible for the repatriation packages which include basic building materials and food rations among others,” Tsiane pointed out. Failure to register will also affect students who will be kicked out of school.  “We gave them protection as per their request now the situation has normalised. About Caprivi being an independent state is something else they will sort out with the Namibian government,” ministry of defense says.

A source from UNHRC says, if the migrants do not register they will no longer be under their jurisdiction and the immigration laws will deal with them since they will be illegal immigrants. The refugees, on annual basis, cost UNHCR P10 million as they are given food rations, school uniform for kids and transport to school. The Namibians fled here in October 1998 with 100 being the armed Caprivi Liberation Army and 2500 civilians. Their leadership of Mishake Muyongo and Chief Boniface Mamili were long resettled to Denmark in the early 2000s.

The Dukwi Refugee Camp is housing 2318 refugees with 947 being Namibians. Zimbabweans will also be sent packing once Kgathi is done with the Caprivi. Sources tell this paper that already the northern neighbours have been engaged on the matter and they agreed that soon after the general elections in August they will voluntarily go back to Zimbabwe. By far they have engaged the Zimbabwe Minister of Home Affairs and Culture, Dr Obert Mpofu, who has appealed to Zimbabwean refugees at Dukwi Refugee Camp to go back home. Zimbabweans who thronged Botswana after the 2008 bloody elections have been given political refugee tag are currently 687 at the camp.

However, despite the ministry’s unswerving stance on the two nationalities other refugees will be left behind. Angolans, Burundians, the Congolese, Ethiopians, Rwandans, Eritreans, Sierra Leones, Moroccans and Somalis are some of the nationalities accommodated at the camp, but why are they left behind? “These other countries have smaller numbers of migrants, so the idea is to begin with the large numbers first.

This is done so that it would be easy to resettle them elsewhere in the world once numbers have dwindled and it would be clear that there is no option for them hence it is easy to be resettled,” said a source. Further, it is said the reason to repatriate the two nationalities is basically because UNHCR is closing shop in Botswana. “United Nations is clear, if the number of refugees are less than 3000 it does not need UNHCR presence, so we should begin with high numbers first.”

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People with Disabilities Face Barriers to Political Participation in Botswana

23rd February 2024

Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.

A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.

The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.

Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.

By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.

 

 

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Neo Kirchway- Defying the odds

23rd February 2024

In the heartwarming tale of Neo Kirchway, a beacon of inspiration emerges, shining brightly amid life’s adversities.

Defying the constraints of destiny, Neo Kirchway, a resilient Motswana soul now thriving in the United States, stands tall despite the absence of her lower limbs. With unwavering determination, she tends to her cherished family – a loving husband and four children – engaging in the daily symphony of household tasks with remarkable grace.

Neo’s indomitable spirit traces back to the fateful year of 1994, a time when medical intervention called for the amputation of her curled legs. Embracing this pivotal juncture with unwavering courage and the blessing of her mother, she ventured forth into a world adorned with prosthetic legs, eager to script a tale of triumph.

Venturing beyond borders, Neo’s journey led her to the embrace of the United States, where serendipity intertwined her fate with that of her soulmate, Garrett Kirchway. Together, this harmonious duo navigates the ebbs and flows of life, their bond fortified by unwavering love and unyielding support.

In a bid to illuminate paths and embolden hearts, Neo leverages the digital realm, crafting a sanctuary of empowerment on her YouTube channel. Brimming with authenticity and raw emotion, her videos chronicle the tapestry of her daily life, serving as a testament to resilience and the unwavering human spirit.

Amidst the digital cosmos, Neo, affectionately known as “KirchBaby,” reigns supreme, a luminary in the hearts of 658,000 enraptured subscribers. Through her captivating content, she not only navigates the mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, and childcare but also dances with celestial grace, a testament to her boundless spirit and unyielding zest for life.

In the cathedral of Neo Kirchway’s narrative, resilience reigns supreme, echoing a universal truth – that amidst life’s gales, the human spirit, when kindled by hope and fortitude, emerges as a beacon of light, illuminating even the darkest of paths.

 

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Inequalities Faced by Individuals with Disabilities

22nd February 2024

The government’s efforts to integrate individuals with disabilities in Botswana society are being hampered by budgetary constraints. Those with disabilities face inequalities in budgetary allocations in the health and education sectors. For instance, it is reported that the government allocates higher budgetary funds to the general health sector, while marginal allocations are proposed for the development and implementation of the National Primary Health Care guidelines and Standards for those with Disabilities. This shows that in terms of budgetary solutions, the government’s proposed initiatives in improving the health and well-being of those with disabilities remain futile as there is not enough money going towards disability-specific health programs. On the other hand, limited budgetary allocations to the Special Education Unit also are a primary contributor to the inequalities faced by children with disabilities. The government only provides for the employment of 15 teachers with qualifications in special education despite the large numbers of children with intellectual disabilities that are in need of special education throughout Botswana. Such disproportional allocation of resources inhibits the capacity to provide affordable and accessible assisted technology and residential support services for those with disabilities. Given the fact that a different amount of resources have been availed to the education and health sectors, the general understanding is that the government is not doing enough to ensure that adequate resources are distributed to disability-specific programs and facilities such as barrier-free environments, residential homes, and special education schools for children with disabilities.

 

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