MAUN: United States of America (USA) ambassador to Botswana, Earl Miller, visited participants of a project that trains young children on conflict resolutions within their communities at Love Botswana Centre in Sedie, on Tuesday.
The project, called, ‘Kagiso Project’ is the brainchild of Vehae Tjirange. The Kagiso Project is a peer mediation programme aimed at developing and empowering young people, trains youth to mediate conflicts between their peers in the consensus-building style, of the traditional kgotla system.
Funded by the US government, Kagiso Project arises from the prevalence of violent and non-violent conflict in Botswana’s school system.
In 2012, Botswana’s first youth risk behavioural surveillance survey found that 40 percent of student respondents reported having been picked on or bullied in school, while a quarter of students were threatened or injured with a weapon.
Teachers and parents frequently encounter youth insubordination and disrespect toward authority while students express concern over their safety at school. The children told the US ambassador that there were still incidents of stigmatisation of people living with HIV/AIDS. They also revealed that there were disturbing incidents where parents of children born with HIV/AIDS kept their status hidden, and when they eventually divulged their status, the children developed depression, which in turn affected their academic performance. “Some children are on ARVs but their parents have not explained to them why they are taking the drugs as they are under the impression that they live a healthy life,” said one of the participants.
The learners also complained of high incidents of rape, alcohol abuse and rampant corruption in the society something they said can potentially affect the lives of youth.
Miller said the knowledge the learners acquired from the training would equip them with knowledge on issues of bullying, gender based violence, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy as well as alcohol and drug abuse.
He noted that he was aware that it was emotionally challenging to address these issues, but this was the first step in resolving them. “I know that it is difficult and uncomfortable to confront personal issues. I admire you for having the courage to talk about your problems openly,” he said.