Young man banks on education to rid himself of poverty
Like many other children all over Botswana, Wellington Mutasa was raised by a single mother and was never close to his father’s family.”
The 20-year-old man from Maun tells of how being raised by a single, unemployed mother had reduced them to paupers but never killed his desire to acquire education so that someday he could change the economic status of his family.
“I am the last born of four siblings, two females and two males. When I was five years old, my mother went to Bana ba Letsatsi, a charitable organisation to ask them to admit me into their pre-school classes because she could not afford to send me to private school let alone buy me school uniform,” explained Mutasa.
Bana ba Letsatsi is a non-governmental organisation that provides psychosocial counselling, educational and recreational programming, informal education and peer mentoring among other activities.
“The other reason for sending me to the day care centre was so that I could have free meals because at home it was tough,” said Mutasa.
The following year, when he was aged six, which is an admissible school going age at government schools, Bana ba Letsatsi registered him to begin Standard One at Botswelelo Primary School.
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“They bought me stationery and uniform and some of my basic needs. They especially helped me in shaping my dreams through their after school guidance and counselling activities.”
When he was in his last year of primary school, Mutusa’s father died and within a month. His mother, who was their sole caretaker, also passed on. “It was traumatic for me and I had to change schools as I was taken to my mother’s home village in Mmandunyane.”
Besides Mutasa, thousands of children in the district live in dire poverty and, for many years, Ngamiland or North West has been ranked among the country’s poorest districts with UNICEF reports indicating that children in this area had inadequate access to nutrition, health, housing and education.
After the death of his parents, Mutasa lost interest in school work and eventually stopped going to school altogether as nobody seemed to care anymore about whether he went to school or not.
“However, Bana-ba-Letsatsi never forgot about me. One day, they visited and when they found me at home during school hours, they made me understand the importance of education and took me back to school.”
He then passed his Primary School Leaving Examinations (PLSE) with grade B and Bana ba Letsatsi took him back to Maun where he stayed with his grandmother. He enrolled at Sedie Junior Secondary School where he got grade B at the completion of his Form 3.
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“My dream then was to study hard so I could be a pilot,” added Mutasa, who went on to complete his studies at Maun Senior Secondary School where he got good grades; 40 points in 2021, and now he wants to enrol in Digital Filming and Television at Limkokwing University as his dream of becoming a pilot has changed with time.
“In 2019, Bana ba Letsatsi took us on a filming tour at CKGR (Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve) for a South African TV series called ‘Siyaya Come Wild With Us’. That is when I developed passion for television and filming because, before then, I used to edit videos on my mobile phone, but true discovery came with the filming of the documentary.”
Mutasa currently does not have a permanent place of abode as his grandmother stays in a rented room and he also is renting a room elsewhere in Maun.
“I survive through photo-shooting. I have a small camera and, the small monies I get through that, I pay rent, buy basics and sometimes, in a good month, I spare a few bucks to help my grandmother who depends on old age pension for survival. She is 78 years old,” said Mutasa.
Explaining his determination to excel at university despite his challenges, he said, “There is no way I can afford to relax in my studies because it is only through a good education that I can take my family from where it is today to a better place. My dream is to build my family a house and give them a good and respectable name. My mother died poor and I pray that God will keep my grandmother alive so she can step into a house she can call her own and eat good food.”
Further confirming Mutasa’s determination was Bana ba Letsatsi Director, Taboka Rotsi, who said just recently Mutasa outperformed everyone else during a photography and filming workshop organised for their students by National Geographic.
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North West is one of the poorest districts in the country and records increase of persons in need of government aid through destitute programmes almost every year.
In the Maun area during the financial year ended April 2023, a total of 2,651 destitute elderly people were registered as compared to 2,624 registered the previous year. The registry is of old people only and does not account for children.
North West District Council Chairperson noted as a concern in a recent council session that the rehabilitation of destitute persons has been a challenge in the district so far due to budget cuts.
Meanwhile, 24 children in the same district have been removed from their homes and placed in places of safety for various reasons, including children living under “difficult” circumstances, according to the council.
These children are said to be a first batch of foster care programme, which was only introduced in 2021 with the aim to improve child care in the district.