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Mr Pres, In SONA, We Look To You

Today, President Mokgweetsi Masisi will deliver his maiden State of the Nation Address in Parliament. An eloquent man that he is, I am pretty sure he will leave us mesmerised. But then it is not about how well and flawless English the President speaks. It is about what he has in store for the nation.

Today, hopefully, we will finally hear the roadmap of the Masisi’s six months old administration.

I, like many, have a long wish list. It starts with the realisation, that we are a nation at crossroads. We are a people in need of leadership. A people thirsting for real and working ideas to get us unstuck and raise us to dreams of better Botswana.

As you flip through the long speaking notes, on the iPad I assume, I and the plus two million of my people, wait, hopeful. Granted, you cannot divert much from your government’s programmes, and projects as contained in the National Development Plan 11. You also have to follow a plan as laid out in Kenneth Matambo’s February Budget and the mid-term review. But there is a lot that can and should change our lives for the better, if the implementation and monitoring arms were in motion.

High on the agenda should be the burning issue of unemployment. We need to hear real, workable and immediate plans to inject life into employment creation and the job market. For too long, our higher institutions of learning have been spewing out graduates with no prospect of employment. We have failed as a nation to develop programmes to ensure that the graduates are able to enter the job market ready and even market themselves to the world. Because of the hard-headed nature of our politicians, who would wear ogleklap in partisan beliefs and not accept advice and guidance from the opposing side, we failed to see the benefit of the ideals of Education With Production as driven by the late Patrick van Rensburg.

Sadly it was at his memorial service last year in Serowe that Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi acknowledged that the government could have disregarded his leftist ideals and instead taken on board his ideas. Had we, we would have produced graduates ready and able to soil to create wealth.

In the roadmap, we want to hear how we can turn around our education system, the standard of which has been going down for some time now. From pre-primary to tertiary level. As an educationalist yourself Mr President, we need to know what you plan to do to ensure quality market driven education. This is a critical sector which has been failing us and unless and until we arrest the situation, the future looks nothing but bleak.

The issues of unemployment and falling education standards are interlinked, just as that of the youth. Statistics Botswana can bear testimony to this: the worst hit group of the unemployed is the youth. This is

the group, year after year, being churned out by the different levels of the education system, ill-prepared and unskilled for the job market.

My big brother likes telling of these degree holders who have become so despondent due to their state of life that they have resorted to hanging out at drinking spots, and once drunk, from cheap alcohol, start communicating with ordinary folks in English. “Bana ba baa choma mo ithelang ba buisa Chibuku sekgoa…” my brother would say. Sounds like a joke, but it is a fact of life today.

As I have stated here in the past, with high unemployment, and poverty, comes high rate and different levels of crime. We have young people who, while by nature would do no wrong, are forced into finding other ways of survival. Some have resorted to using technology to con people to make a living.

When you watch top cop, Nnunu Lesetedi rounding up and showing off his catch on television almost every week, it is mostly the young educated Batswana. A future lost either to selling or using drugs for survival. If we were to seriously investigate, we may discover that these drug peddlers come from broken families, who also may be struggling with life due to lack of jobs or other social ills.

And this is another issue Your Excellency most of us would want to hear you on, the status and quality of family life. I recall one of the first directives when you came to office in April was for the government to sort out the issue of separating married couples. There was a deadline set for couples separated by government jobs to apply to be reunited. I don’t know what became of it. I hope it is addressed but with more clarity and workable lasting solutions.

Your Excellency, I for one would want to get clarity on issues of gender-based violence. When we appealed to you some months back to speak against high rates of femicide, you spoke of changing laws. How far are we in that regard? The 16-days of Activism against GBV are here, but the leadership voices have gone mute.

Take lead Mr President. In all these and many other challenges such as lack of medication in our hospitals; the rising death toll of our children to diarrhoea; contaminated water; high levels of corruption; road carnage; the rise in crime, and suicide; food security, especially now that drought is upon us; and many more, we look up to you Your Excellency for answers.

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