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Im unhappy to report..??

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

If I had a pula saved for every article I have written on happiness, its absence, depression and the like I’d have a tidy sum of money so, adding another proverbial coin to the piggy bank I’d like to share a more global yet local view on the subject from this article written by co-Positive Organisational Psychologist, Coach and colleague Celia Potgieter.

Every year, since 2012, a study has been conducted on the happiness levels of almost every nation around the globe – the Global Happiness Report. Shockingly, to me and almost everyone I speak to, every year, Botswana languishes in the bottom portion of the league.  We are one of the unhappiest nations in the world. And it’s getting worse.

Since Gallup started collecting this data in 2005, Botswana has seen the 4th largest drop in score of any country.  To put this into numbers, Botswana’s happiness rating has fallen year on year, from 128th out of 158 countries in 2015, to 148th out of 156 countries in 2019, now sitting snugly between Haiti and Syria. We are the 8th unhappiest country in the world, bedfellows with war-torn and extreme poverty-stricken countries.

How is this possible and why this peaceful, democratic, middle-income nation scores so low in the rankings? 

So, I tried to dig deeper into the data, and come up with some answers.

The first area I looked at was Democracy.  This is a big factor in African countries, where the concept is still relatively embryonic, and people are looking to their elected governments to improve their living conditions.  I wondered whether Batswana are disappointed with how the government is performing, but the most recent study from AfroBarometer (2016-2018) revealed that in general, people consider the government to be doing reasonably well; they support automatic succession of the Vice President to President; and they think that the government is doing a good job of managing the economy. 


The next area of investigation was Poverty.  The Lived Poverty Index (LPI) used by AfroBarometer measures experiences of deprivation, including going without food, water, and electricity.  Using the LPI, it was found that there is a strong negative correlation between happiness and lived poverty.  For example, one of the world’s poorest nations, Burundi, scores very low in happiness (but still higher than us at 145th), whilst Mauritius has low Lived Poverty, and scores far higher on the happiness index (57th). 

But, Botswana does not score badly on the Lived Poverty Index.  Most people (82%) have easy access to running water (compared with the African average of 63%) and only 22% of people do not have an electric connection to their homes from the mains (compared with 35% Africa average).  Similarly, food security is slightly better in Botswana than the African average, with 7% of Batswana reporting having gone without food many times over the past 12 months, compared with 11% for the continent’s average.


Next was Corruption.  Could that be the key factor affecting the nation’s happiness?  The Global Happiness Report has found a relationship between happiness and corruption, where long-term changes in corruption levels, and citizen’s perception of their government’s performance in fighting corruption, correlate with happiness levels.  This is where the data for Botswana gets a little tricky.  53.5% of respondents to the 2016-2018 AfroBarometer study reported that corruption has increased somewhat or a lot. 

To give more detail, 81.7% of respondents think that either all, most, or some government officials are involved in corruption, and 68.9% think that ordinary people who report incidents of corruption, risk retaliation.  This is worryingly high, yet at the same time, 62.2% of respondents said they agree or strongly agree that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption and 51.5% think that government is doing well or fairly well at handling corruption in government.  So, it appears that there is a perceived problem of corruption, but also optimism about the way that it is being tackled.


Rather than democracy, poverty or corruption, we could, perhaps, be looking at a simple case of the effects of extreme inequality.  As at 2009, Botswana has a GINI score of 60.5.  The GINI measures the level of inequality in a nation, with 0 being a score of perfect equality, and 100 of perfect inequality.  Botswana is up there with the most unequal countries in the world.  In other words, a tiny fraction of the population earns and owns the majority of the country’s wealth, whilst the majority of the population are barely surviving.

In the education world, this inequality leads us to a scenario where rich children, who live in Extension 11, go to private school, have extra tuition, and countless other privileges and advantages, are scored on the same exam system (BGCSE) as poor children living in Old Naledi who often leave for school in the morning on an empty stomach, and return at the end of the day to either an unsafe environment, or a home where they are expected to take care of sick or elderly relatives and younger siblings. 

A school grade for the latter child, is definitely not an indication of the extent of his or her capabilities, and yet, their futures are determined in this way.

In terms of the values of our nation, this inequality also raises some interesting points: 85% of respondents say they agree or strongly agree that people must pay their taxes, and yet, 74.7% of respondents think that it is likely or very likely that a rich person could pay a bribe or use personal connections to get away with avoiding paying taxes they owe to government. 

Additionally, 63.8% of respondents said that they either strongly agree or agree that the law must require senior government officials to declare assets, a topic that has been quickly shut down whenever it has been raised in parliament, resulting in the poorer members of society, believing that the law is there to support the rich and their personal and cultural values being disregarded by those in authority.

I have often wondered at the lack of citizen participation in the nation’s affairs, but the data has also turned up some interesting figures on this topic.

As I perceived, 85% of respondents said they had never contacted a member of parliament about some important issue or to give them their views.  And now I think I understand why.  77.8% of respondents think that MPs never, or only sometimes, try their best to listen to what people have to say.  If you do not believe that anyone is going to listen, why bother speaking out?  Which is a shame, particularly in today’s politically volatile climate.

I suspect that the current behaviour of some MPs might differ if the 79.8% of people who said they approve or strongly approve of MPs who resign from their party being forced to vacate their seat, had spoken out and made this clear to their government.

Sadly, as interesting as this data is, I still feel that I am missing something vital.  What is the main cause of our beloved country ranking so low, year after year, for happiness?  What is missing from our lives that makes citizens feel unhappy?



Academic studies have demonstrated that for humans to flourish, we need a core set of factors to be present in our lives. These are: positive relationships (arguably the most important factor); a sense of seeking and finding meaning in our lives and work; engagement in the world around us; working toward personally meaningful goals and a sense of achievement and progress; a healthy and vital body; and moments of joy.

And out of this flourishing, we see numerous, far-reaching results. 

People who are happy tend to be healthier, perform at higher levels, set goals and attain them, look out for others, are more generous, more creative, have better communication skills, lower stress levels, earn more money, attain higher positions in work and live longer,

How can we weave these factors into the fabric of our society, so that even in times of hardship, our citizens feel supported, resilient, optimistic, capable, connected, and hopeful?  How can we bring the science of happiness into our homes, schools, and places of work, so we can do better, and be better?

My hope is that we can use this disappointing ranking as a wake-up call to start an open and honest national debate, and hopefully, just maybe, next year we’ll see a different result.

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Technology saves Lions from angry Okavango villagers

22nd November 2022

Villagers in the eastern Okavango region are now using an alert system which warns them when collared lions approach livestock areas. The new technology is now regarded as a panacea to the human/wildlife conflict in the area as it has reduced mass poisoning and killing of lions by farmers.

The technology is being implemented by an NGO, Community Living Among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS) within the five villages of Seronga, Gunutsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa in the eastern part of the Okavango delta.

A Carnivore Ecologist from CLAWS, Dr Andrew Stein explained that around 2013, villagers in the eastern Okavango were having significant problems with losses of their cattle to predators specifically lions, so the villagers resorted to using poison and shooting the lions in order to reduce their numbers.

He highlighted that as a form of progressive intervention, they designed a programme to reduce the conflicts and promote coexistence. Another component of the programme is communal herding, introduced in 2018 to reduce the conflict by increasing efficiency whereby certified herders monitor livestock health and protect them from predators, allowing community members to engage in other livelihood activities knowing that their livestock are safe.

They are now two herds with 600 and 230 cattle respectively with plan to expand the programme to other neighbouring villages. Currently the programme is being piloted in Eretsha, one of the areas with most conflict incidences per year.

Dr Stein explained that they have developed the first of its kind alert system whereby when the lions get within three or five kilometers of a cattllepost or a homestead upon the five villages, then it will release an alert system going directly to the cellphones of individuals living within the affected area or community.

So, if a colored lion gets to about five kilometers of Eretsha village or any villagers in the Eretsha that has signed up for, the system will receive an SMS of the name of the lion and its distance to or from the village, he stated. He added that this enables villagers to take preventative action to reduce conflicts before its starts.

Dr Stein noted that some respond by gathering their cattle and put them in a kraal or put them in an enclosure making sure that the enclosure is secure while some people will gather firewood and light small fires around edges of the kraal to prevent lions from coming closer and some when they receive the SMS they send their livestock to the neighbours alerting them about the presence of lions.

He noted that 125 people have signed to receive the alert system within Seronga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gunutsoga and Gudigwa. He added that each homestead is about five people and this means more than 600 people immediately receive the messages about lions when they approach their villages. He also noted that last year they dispersed over 12 000 alerts, adding that this year is a bit higher as about 20 000 alerts have been sent so far across these villages.

Stein further noted that they have been significant changes in the behavior of the villagers as they are now tolerant to lions. 85 percent were happy with the SMS and people are becoming more tolerant with living with lions because they have more information to reduce the conflicts, he stressed.

Stein noted that since the start of the programme in 2014 they have seen lion populations rebounds almost completely to a level before and they have not recorded cases of lion poisoning in the last three years which is commendable effort.

Monnaleso Sanga from Eretsha village applauded the programme by CLAWS noting that farmers in the area are benefiting through the alert system and take preventative measures to reduce human/lion conflict which has been persistent in the area. He added that numbers of cattle killed by lions have reduced immensely. He also admitted that they are now tolerant to lions and they no longer kill nor poison them.

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THE IDEAL QUALITY OF A MUSLIM

8th September 2022

A Muslim is supposed to be and should be a living example of the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah (the teachings and living examples of Prophet Muhammed (SAW Peace be upon Him). We should follow these in all affairs, relations, and situations starting with our relationship with our Lord, our own self, our family and the people around us. One of the distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his faith in Allah, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of the Almighty Allah.

A Muslim should know and feel that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of his Creator, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds. This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in private.

His attitude towards his body, mind and soul

The Muslim pays attention to his bodys physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. He takes good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. He shouldnt eat in excess; but he should eat enough to maintain his health and energy. Allah, The Exalted, Says Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters. [Quran 7: 31]

The Muslim should keep away from alcohol and drugs. He should also try to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness. The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes clean, he bathes frequently. The Prophet placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. A Muslim is also concerned with his clothing and appearance but in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes.

As for his intellectual care, the Muslim should take care of his mind by pursuing beneficial knowledge. It is his responsibility to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says: and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge. [Quran 20: 114

The Muslim should not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit. Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development, in a balanced manner which ideally does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.

His attitude towards people

The Muslim must treat his parents with kindness and respect, compassion, politeness and deep gratitude. He recognizes their status and knows his duties towards them. Allah Says And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents [Quran 4: 36]

With his wife, the Muslim should exemplify good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.

With his children, the Muslim is a parent who should understand his responsibility towards their good upbringing, showing them love and compassion, influence their Islamic development and giving them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.

With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.

 

With his neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment, kindness and consideration of others feelings and sensitivities. He turns a blind eye to his neighbours faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself. The Muslim relationship with his wider circle of friends is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is loyal and does not betray them; he is sincere and does not cheat them; he is gentle, tolerant and forgiving; he is generous and he supplicates for them.

In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim should be well-mannered, modest and not arrogant. He should not envy others, fulfils his promises and is cheerful. He is patient and avoids slandering and uttering obscenities. He should not unjustly accuse others nor should he interfere in that which does not concern him. He refrains from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble – avoids false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people. He strives to reconcile between the Muslims. He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He calls others to Islam with wisdom, example and beautiful preaching. He should guide people to do good and always make things easy and not difficult.

The Muslim should be fair in his judgments, not a hypocrite, a sycophant or a show-off. He should not boast about his deeds and achievements. He should be straightforward and never devious or twisted, no matter the circumstances. He should be generous and not remind others of his gifts or favours. Wherever possible he relieves the burden of the debtor. He should be proud and not think of begging.

These are the standards by which the (ideal) Muslim is expected to structure his life on. Now how do I measure up and fit into all this? Can I honestly say that I really try to live by these ideals and principles; if not can I really call myself a true Muslim?

For the ease of writing this article I have made use of for want of a better word, the generic term he, his, him and the male gender, but it goes without saying that these standards apply equally to every female and male Muslim.

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OUR BELOVED CHILDREN

29th August 2022

Homicide and suicide kill almost 7000 children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves..childrens potential lost to spirit crushing poverty.childrens hearts lost in divorce and custody battles.childrens lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself, as we fail our children. If you bungle raising your children, I dont think whatever else you do matters very much. (Quotation taken from a book written by Hillary Clinton).

These words may well apply to us here in Botswana; We are also experiencing a series of challenges in many spheres of development and endeavour but none as challenging as the long term effects of what is going to happen to our youth of today. One of the greatest challenges facing us as parents today is how to guide our youth to become the responsible adults that we wish them to be, tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has enjoined upon the parents to take care of the moral and religious instruction of their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence on the Day of Judgement. Parents must inculcate God-consciousness in their children from an early age, whereby the children will gain an understanding of duty to The Creator.

 

The Holy Quran says: O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell. (Ch. 66: V6). This verse places the responsibility on the shoulders of the parents to ensure that training and guidance begin at home. The goal is to mould the child into a solid Islamic personality, with good morals, strong Islamic principles, knowledge and behavior so as to be equipped to face the demands of life in a responsible and mature manner. This should begin with the proper environment at home that inculcates the best moral and behavioral standards.

But what do we have instead? Believers of all Religious persuasions will agree that we have children growing up without parental guidance, a stable home environment, without role models, being brought up in surroundings that are not conducive to proper upbringing and moulding of well-adjusted children. These children are being brought up devoid of any parental guidance and increasingly the desperate situation of orphaned children having to raise their siblings (children raising children) because their parents have succumbed to the scourge of AIDS.

It is becoming common that more and more girls still in their schooling years are now falling pregnant, most of them unwanted, with the attendant responsibilities and difficulties.

Observe the many young ladies who are with children barely in their teens having illegitimate children. In the recent past there was a campaign focused on the girl-child; this campaign targeted this group of young females who had fallen pregnant and were now mothers. The situation is that the mother still being just a child and not even having tasted adulthood, now has the onerous responsibility of raising her own child most of the time on her own because either the father has simply disappeared, refuses to takes responsibility, or in some cases not even known.

We cannot place the entire blame on these young mothers; as parents and society as a whole stand accused because we have shirked our responsibilities and worse still we ourselves are poor role models. The virtual breakdown of the extended family system and of the family unit in many homes means that there are no longer those safe havens of peace and tranquility that we once knew. How then do we expect to raise well-adjusted children in this poisoned atmosphere?

Alcohol has become socially acceptable and is consumed by many of our youth and alarmingly they are now turning to drugs. Alcohol is becoming so acceptable that it is easily accessible even at home where some parents share drinks with their children or buying it for them. This is not confined only to low income families it is becoming prevalent amongst our youth across the board.

 

It is frightening to witness how our youth are being influenced by blatantly suggestive pop culture messages over television, music videos and other social media. Children who are not properly grounded in being able to make rational and informed decisions between what is right and what is wrong are easily swayed by this very powerful medium.

 

So what do we do as parents? We first have to lead by example; it is no longer the parental privilege to tell the child do as I say not as I do- that no longer works. The ball is in the court of every religious leader (not some of the charlatans who masquerade as religious leaders), true adherents and responsible parents. We cannot ignore the situation we have to take an active lead in guiding and moulding our youth for a better tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character. Children should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and trust of Allah, and brought up with care and affection and taught proper responsibilities etiquettes and behaviour.

Even the Bible says;Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. (Mark 10:14-15)

The message is clear and needs to be taken by all of us: Parents let us rise to the occasion – we owe it to our children and their future.

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