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Left in the dark

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Headmaster switches off teacher’s electricity

Instead of strategizing on how to improve results in the face of Coronavirus, Sefhare Junior School staff are caught up in a petty fight over housing.

A brewing storm in a teacup between a new teacher and the school head over housing and electricity has threatened to divide the staff after the teacher’s electricity was abruptly cut and he was forced to resort to using candles for lighting.

The teacher (names withheld) says he recently arrived in Sefhare from Mahalapye Junior School to a hostile and unwelcoming environment after swapping with a colleague in December last year.

For fear of reprisal the concerned teacher preferred that his colleagues and sympathisers narrate his ordeal to The Voice with the hope that speaking out would bring him some relief.

“When a cargo truck carrying his stuff arrived at Sefhare Junior on the 19th, the deputy school head Ephraim Maifala ordered its return to Mahalapye. This was supposed to be a straight swap. He was supposed to move into the house vacated by the other teacher, but for some reason the housing committee, which is oddly controlled by the school head and his deputy decided to move him to a different house to share with a female teacher, “revealed the concerned colleague.

For four days his stuff remained in the truck at the Sub-region,” he said.

The Voice has learnt that the two swapping mates however hatched a plan to move the stuff in the concerned teacher’s desired house, a move that sent him on a collision course with the housing committee.

In a letter written by the school head on 27th January, the teacher was reprimanded for non-compliance and self-allocation of a house contrary to Section 5 of the Housing Policy.

“He was told he could not occupy the house because it was still under investigation with three other houses for bypassing electricity,” The Voice learnt.
Seeing that the teacher had no intention of vacating the house the headmaster ordered Botswana Power Corporation to disconnect power from the disputed house on March 10, causing the teacher to rely on candles for lighting.

“He’s a strong willed person. Despite all this, he has never missed a lesson. The only challenge is that he can’t wear formal clothes since he cant iron, so he’s resorted to jeans and t-shirts,” revealed a colleague.

In an interview with The Voice on Tuesday, the school head confirmed that he indeed disconnected electricity at the advice of BPC.

He said there was no way the said teacher could occupy a house that is being investigated for bypassing electricity.

Reminded that three other houses under investigation for a similar offence have not been disconnected, Phuthego responded thus: “We looked at the severity of the offence. This one looked like a recent offence while other houses were old cases with one having been bypassed since 2012,” he said.

The School Head said he doesn’t have any problem with the said teacher but only wanted him to comply with the housing policy.

“He can complain or show his displeasure but first he has to comply,” Phuthego said.

“What he has to understand is swapping simply means change of station, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll occupy the house vacated by the other party. Arranging accommodation for staff members is a duty undertaken by the Housing Committee,” he said.

The Voice also learnt that both the headmaster and the concerned teacher were summoned by the Regional Director Sonny Mooketsi who’s expected to settle the matter this week.

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ATN advocates for tobacco ban

A call to stop the sales to tobacco products during the state of public emergency to save lives from COVID-19: Anti Tobacco Network, Botswana

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The Anti Tobacco Network Botswana (ATN, Botswana) recognizes that tobacco use is an immediate threat to  the control of COVID-19 spread, and calls on Government to stop the sales to tobacco products during the state of public emergency to save lives.

We note  and commend the Government for approving a regulation prohibiting the importation into Botswana of tobacco or tobacco-related products during the state of public emergency.

This action is indeed a testament of the cardinal recognition by the Government and confirmation to the whole nation  that tobacco and tobacco related products such as  e-cigarettes, hubbly bubbly, (Shisha), vapes are non-essential commodities and that tobacco is a non-essential business that cannot be allowed to continue during the state of public emergency. 

ATN Botswana however, urges the Government  as a matter of urgency to issue further regulation to suspend all  sale of tobacco and tobacco related products during the  COVID-19 pandemic period.

Such a ban will reduce easy access to tobacco products and therefore save lives of many people.

People who smoke or use other tobacco products should be assisted to quit in our health facilities.

Our urgent call to ban the sale of tobacco products during this time of public emergency is informed by scientific evidence that smoking damages human lungs and other body organs.

Smoking also destroys the immune system hence weakening a smoker’s responsiveness to infections.

As COVID -19 is primarily a disease affecting the respiratory system, smokers are therefore more vulnerable to developing severe COVID-19 which may result in prolonged hospitalization under life support machines in intensive care units (ICU) or death. Persons with long standing chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are also susceptible to severe COVID -19.

There is compelling evidence from previous studies that smokers are twice more likely than non-smokers to contract influenza and have more severe symptoms.

While smokers were also noted to have higher mortality in the previous Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak, emerging data from patients hospitalized with severe  COVID-19 show higher percentages of current and former smokers among patients that have needed ICU support, mechanical ventilation or those that have died.

The findings show that a higher percentage of smokers are among the severe cases.

We argue that tobacco products are not essential commodities and their sales must therefore be banned.

Allowing tobacco sales will expose smokers to COVID-19 who will repeatedly be going to the shops to purchase tobacco products.

In addition, Government should completely ban the sale and use of the hubbly Bubbly (Shisha) which is usually smoked in groups using shared mouth pieces that are a channel for transmission of COVID -19 and other respiratory diseases including tuberculosis.

During such smoking sessions, it is practically impossible to maintain social distance to avoid transmission of COVID -19 as well.

It must be remembered that the sharing of tobacco products by its users pose the danger of  spreading COVID-19 through contaminated saliva.

Several countries in Africa including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Gambia have banned sale of use of shisha.

Recently, 17 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region have banned hubbly Bubbly (Shisha) as a measure to control spread of COVID -19.

South Africa banned the sale of tobacco products during its 21-day lockdown.

Botswana can join these countries, to further solidify its stance that tobacco is not an essential commodity and preventing its use can save lives.

We further call on the Government  to strictly enforce the provisions of section 13 of the Control of Smoking Act which bans the advertisement of tobacco products by the tobacco industry. 

ATN Botswana has noted with concern that recently, there has been an upsurge in advertisement, especially banners posted by irresponsible companies or individuals that boldly advertise and promote tobacco products in the face of COVID-19 and in full disregard of existing law prohibition of advertising and promotion of tobacco products in Botswana.

Such adverts even inviting  people to smoke shops when the Government of Botswana is urging people to keep physical distance, will negatively affect the effort to fight COVID-19 and also defeat other efforts by government to reduce tobacco use which is a known leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

By Professor Bontle Mbongwe, Executive Director, Anti Tobacco Network

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Francistown’s peaceful night

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On the first day of the 28 days of extreme social distancing, the city of Francistown has experienced one of the most peaceful nights in a long time.

Officer Commanding Number 15 District Senior Superintendent Kabo Badirwang told The Voice in an interview that despite a few isolated incidents the night went on with no worries.

The top cop said stopping the sale of alcohol two weeks ago was a stroke of genius that will go a long way in the combat against Covid-19.

Badirwang said they were worried last night as at around 10pm, they could still see long queues at Automated Teller Machines and some quick shops.
“We announced at around 11:30 that people should be getting ready to go home and what we saw was absolute cooperation. By 12 midnight, the streets were quiet. It was an absolute pleasure to see,” Badirwang said.

He said in an isolated incident they came across three ladies who arrived on a late bus at the Francistown bus rank. “They were heading to areas around Somerset, but as you know there was no public transport. They however finally managed to get a lift and were allowed to proceed to their destination.”

Badirwang said even troublesome locations such as Coloured and Bluetown were very quite at night. “People in Francistown have headed the message and this in turn make our task easy,” he added.

He however noted that while the Francistown nights go on peacefully, it is during the day that they experience challenges with people who still feel they have a right to walk wherever they want.
“We do receive reports of people who are not observing the health tips and social distancing. Those will be dealt with. I’m hopeful that in the coming days, people will understand what this is all about,” he said.

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