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Only sound policies will defeat poverty

Publishing Date : 23 January, 2018

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Fighting poverty takes more than providing bread just for today! As depicted by Statistics Botswana this week when they announced the poverty figures in Botswana, we must come up with long term and overarching strategies if we are to ‘alleviate’ poverty.  


The good news from the announcement is that Botswana has observed a decrease in the number of people affected by poverty during the period under review. But there is a twist of bad to the good news in that the decrease, which has been observed, is too insignificant to be seen as a positive progress amid the social ills that the nation is currently grappling with.


From children roaming the streets, poor academic performance, drugs and substance abuse as well as criminal activities among delinquent youth – these are all linked to poverty. According to Statistics Botswana, the number of people affected by poverty has decreased from 362 116 in 2009/10 to 337 410 in the latest data collection period (2015/16), a decrease of 3 percent compared 9 percent decrease in the previous data collection.


These statistics are not convince ng on the back of the introduction of various intervention measures by government in 2010 through pet projects such as Nyeletso Lehuma, Ipelegeng and others. The statistics demonstrate that people are worse-off despite the introduction of the said initiatives.


As a result of the high prevalence of poverty, Botswana has consistently fared badly in different rankings on human development.  Botswana is ranked the 4th most unequal society in the world in terms of income distribution – based on the latest Gini index estimates from the World Bank – while Ukraine, Slovenia and Norway rank as the most equal nations in the world.


Botswana has not fared well in the recent Happiness Report, being ranked among some of the unhappy nations in the world. These statistics or revelations are worrying, given that Botswana has a relatively high Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which unfortunately does not translate to quality of life to all or many citizens.


It is well documented that poverty is linked to education performance. Children from poor families are likely to perform badly in schools compared to those from well-off families. The importance of education in developing countries like Botswana cannot be ignored, because education can be the catalyst needed to pull families and communities out of the cycle of poverty. Therefore it is important that government raises the bar in the education sector. Performances of students must be looked into and intervention measures adopted and applied.


Owing to the already existing crisis in public schools, failure to introduce sound policies aimed at combating poverty would perpetuate the status quo for the next decades.   It is fairly common knowledge that knowledge gives children the power to dream of a better future and the confidence needed to pursue a full education, which in turn will help generations to come.


Poverty statistics indicate that, the most affected are people in rural areas, followed by those in urban villages, and those in towns and cities being the least affected. These trends are not surprisingly in sync with national academic performance where it has been established that pupils in urban areas outperform better than those in rural areas, who always score mediocre results.


Majority of students who perform dismally in academics end up roaming the streets, become petty criminals and worse off fall into the poverty line. It also worth noting that criminal behaviour among young people has been on the rise in recent years. Without proper intervention measures, this could prove difficult to combat in future.


We can also not divorce poverty from poor health habits. This emanates from different factors including poor nutrition as well as inability to afford medical insurances. Botswana is already ranked among countries with short life spans at around 55 years.
The quality of life hinges on having low or zero poverty. Like the sustainable development goals envisage, we should strive to end poverty, not only in rhetoric but through sound policies.

As Nelson Mandela observed, poverty is not a natural disaster, it can be overcome through human action.

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