The mining town of Selebi-Phikwe is said to have become a living hell for children of former BCL employees who were destituted by retrenchment when the mine was closed two years ago.
Documentation of community stories by Botswana Council of Churches paints a sad picture of children in BCL houses where older children have been left alone to look after their school going siblings, after their unemployed parents were forced to vacate the mine houses to stay in the villages.
“I used to stay with my parents, now they moved to the village and I’m left with my two younger siblings who are still in school. Life has become difficult, I’m only 21 years old, and I’m expected to provide for myself and my siblings, yet I am also unemployed. I only survive by selling my art work,” one of the young people was recorded in the report which was issued out this morning in Gaborone during a media consultative breakfast forum on alternative mining.
This, BCC has noted, has proven to disturb the children’s learning and has exposed them to risky behaviours as they have no supervision.
According to BCC, some of these children have been affected mentally and are demonstrating strange behaviour towards others.
BCC stated that some teachers have revealed that the change of lifestyle following the economic strain experienced by most households after the mine’s closure have seen some children become bullies because of the amount of stress they have to deal with in transitioning from English to Tswana medium schools.
Even those who were initially in Tswana medium schools are said to have been affected by the rippling social effects of the mine close and their lifestyles have evidently changed.
One of the social workers interviewed stated that they have had to register some of the children of BCL ex-employes as needy so that they can benefit from social welfare services.
“Children come to school without having taken a bath because water has been disconnected from their homes,” a teacher was quoted.
Meanwhile some ex-BCL employees who cut ties with their families when they were still gainfully employed are said to be homeless around the mining town and the church has become their safety net.
“The church was cited as an available and beneficial net in the sense of providing spiritual support and counselling. Various NGOs and the Social Welfare Department are also said to be providing couselling services, which people are not accessing because of perception that counselling is for the weak people and destitutes,” further reads a copy of the study.