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The wantaway kids of Khwee

The wantaway kids of Khwee

Basarwa teens quit school for home

Residents from the sleepy settlement of Khwee have spoken out against alleged abuse and discrimination of their children at Makgadikgadi Junior School.

Although the boarding school is located roughly 180km away in Mosu village, numerous Khwee teenagers have chosen to drop out, making the gruelling trek back home on foot rather than continue with their studies.

Villagers are convinced that bullying, which they suspect is racially motivated, is largely to blame for the high drop out rate.

Located 60km kilometres from Letlhakane, accessible by dirt road only, Khwee is home to less than 1, 000 inhabitants, predominantly of Basarwa origin.

Under a special arrangement through the help of Social Workers, children completing Standard Seven from Khwee Primary School proceed to Makgadikgadi for their junior certificate. Those who do well then advance to Letlhakane Senior, another boarding school.

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However, while students in Khwee have shown they are more than capable of doing well academically, some obtaining Grade A in the Primary School Leaving Examinations, many, particularly boys, never finish their junior schooling.

According to Khwee Village Development Committee (VDC) Chairperson, Meshack Tseleng, said many intelligent boys and girls have hung up their school uniforms for life at the cattle post.

The wantaway kids of Khwee

CONCERNED: Tseleng

Although he did not have the exact numbers, Tseleng stressed the figure was ‘worryingly high’ and that the ‘widespread problem dates back years’.

So, why do they quit school?

“We still don’t know what happens when they get to junior school because here they love going to school,” replied Tseleng, admitting he was well aware of the stereotype attached to Basarawa children and their apparent hatred of school.

He does not think that is the case here.

The VDC Chair said they’ve heard allegations of abuse in Mosu, but are yet to inquire from the school management.

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“This is what they all say when they quit school. Most say they are being starved, and have singled out two teachers in particular as the main culprits.”

Tseleng, whose two nephews recently quit school, said it is terrible to see such brilliant young minds prematurely terminating their education and not realizing their true potential.

 

“We have to find out why they are able to go to school for seven years here, but can’t complete a three-year school calendar,” he added.

Another concerned parent, Godiretswemang Mokoba, 41, revealed three of his nephews and a niece all quit Makgadikgadi JSS this year and have vowed never to return.

The wantaway kids of Khwee

AGITATED: Mokoba

“They are complaining about hunger and general lack of care. Another complaint is that they are being verbally and physically abused,” he said.

Echoing these sentiments, 36-year-old Batwaetsemang Nnamopuong said her two sons dropped out after being whipped for asking for food.

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The wantaway kids of Khwee

UPSET: Nnamopuong

Speaking in her native language, the angry mum said her boys complained of being starved as punishment.

“Teachers followed them here to try to take them back to school but they repeated the same accusations and refused to go back. The teachers left empty-handed,” she said, struggling to suppress what appears to be a proud smile.

Although most of the villagers are unanimous in apportioning the blame solely with the school, one Khwee resident has a slightly different view.

Oredilwe Sentsho, 33, feels most Basarwa children have no role models, either at home or at school.

“Not a single soul from their families has been to school, so what’d be their motivation?” he pointed out.

Sentsho is adamant that as long as Basarwa students don’t see teachers or caretakers from their own tribe, they will always feel inadequate and outnumbered.

“You need one of your own to fight in your corner and stand up for you when you are being abused or ill-treated. I’ve been there myself, I didn’t complete school. Basarwa are very sensitive people, a little form of abuse is enough to unsettle them,” he warned, urging Basarwa parents to take education seriously and work with teachers and social workers to ensure their kids stay in school.

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“Parents should not entertain excuses given by the children to quit school. It’s unacceptable. Getting an education is the only way out of poverty. I regret never completing my studies,” reiterated Sentsho sadly.

Meanwhile, The Voice also talked to 15-year-old Lawrence Dikgaba, who left school in April after the first lockdown.

The wantaway kids of Khwee

DROPOUT: Dikgaba

The Form One dropout explained he quit because was being starved of food.

Ironically, he also told The Voice they are fed four times a day but insisted the portions are tiny!

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