Big Up to the University of Botswana (UB). How pleasing to learn that the institution at which I received instruction for five long years, has lived up to the values upon which it was founded.
More than any institution in the country, UB are a symbol of national triumph over adversity. Proudly built by a people left in the sun after the makeshift Lesotho based outfit was nationalised by a madman, the university is a perfect example self-reliance and sacrifice. The university’s gesture is consistent with its character. It was built out of denial of educational refugee status. The people of Botswana were kicked out of a standing arrangement upon which they depended for their children education. They have since built an institution that compares with the best in the region; one with a heart as big as the world itself and it has proved just that.
I was reduced to tears by the report that the institution has assumed full responsibility for the tuition and related costs of at least four refugee children from the Dukwi refugee camp who excelled in their High School Examinations. These are children who for reasons of which they have absolutely no control, find themselves in very difficult circumstances. They were born to and into adversity. They are refugees. I cannot imagine a more difficult state to be in than to live as another person’s pleasure, with hardly any civil rights to claim. In a world full of adversity, hope is what drives us on. When a hopeless situation is illuminated with such a precious gesture of kindness, one cannot help feeling, even for the fleeting moment, that he was born in the right country. In the words of Martin Luther king, the university has hewed out of their mountain of despair, a stone of hope. It has transformed the jingling discords of their lives into a beautiful symphony of hope.
Maybe some day the world will be better. There will be no refugees to speak of and people would be safe and secure in their countries. But we all know that is wishful thinking. The world is not that kind. We can be content in accepting refugees, especially children, in our country and giving them sanctuary, but their needs are much more. They long for the same chance in life as our children, who have the benefit of the government’s safety net.
They have been dislodged from their dysfunctional government systems and have abandoned their hopes out of concern for their lives. Some have traversed vast distances on foot. They are victims of the shenanigans of men and women caught in the immoral lust for state power which in Africa, is nothing but a door to murder, plunder and rapine. They have been robbed of their dignity and innocence and forced to live in a country not their own. Their status as refugees is dehumanising enough, without more. The calls for government to make a special provision for them as a standing arrangement are valid
We need to understand that their sad fate could just as well be our own. We have only the almighty to thank for our relative political stability. The political tensions in our country may not be at the sale of the conflict that forced the parents of the Burundian girl to take the long journey south. But her nation has not been as fortunate. Brother has turned against brother, sister against sister all with catastrophic consequences. Common bonds of culture and nationality have been forsaken and rivers have turned red with blood. Their situation must constantly remind us of the need for national unity lest our own children should some day find themselves in like circumstances. Just one political or tribal miscalculation and the country could well go up in flames. We must as such, emphatically reject any politician and any person who comes holding up the banner of disunity. We must address the subject of divisive laws in our statutes and our constitution.
I have always been of the position that there are a lot of things we can model to the world as a country. One such is humanity. It is not a value we have to lean as a people. Humanity is in us and the example by UB only confirms who we are. There are many others who have excelled and who now wonder what the future holds for them. UB have done their part and we have it all to do. Government can underwrite these children’s education and set up a fund into which civil society may contribute for such a noble cause. Maybe we could just cover more children. Other than fight with the former president over the Presidential Housing Appeal project, His Excellency can use his gravitas for such a noble cause. No refugee child should be left behind. Let us give them all a chance.