HIV/AIDS and its consequences continue to be the foremost social concern in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, and its surroundings.
Tlokweng is a town on the outskirts of Botswana’s financial and administrative centre
A mother learning with her child in our family strengthening programme in Tlokweng (photo: M. Morosini)
Tlokweng is located just outside Gaborone, which is the largest city and the capital of Botswana. Gaborone and its surroundings have experienced rapid population growth since Botswana gained independence in 1966. Less than 5000 people lived here in the mid-1960s, and today the area has a population of approximately 200,000.
Gaborone is the political as well as the economic centre of Botswana and is located just 15 kilometres from the border with South Africa. Tlokweng has also been greatly affected by the growth of Gaborone, and today the two are practically only separated by the Notwane River. Though influenced by the modern cityscape of Gaborone, Tlokweng still has a more traditional character and appearance.
Supporting vulnerable children and their families in Tlokweng
Botswana has put tremendous effort into fighting HIV/AIDS and providing anti-retroviral treatment to those affected. But it is a hard battle, as it is estimated that more than 20 per cent of the population are living with HIV/AIDS. Consequently, thousands of children in the Tlokweng and Gaborone area have become orphans or will become orphans in the years to come.
Most commonly, these children are cared for by the extended family, but sometimes it is impossible for the extended family to take on responsibility for even more children. Grandparents are often the only ones left to care for orphaned children, and they usually depend on support from the social system or international charities to meet their daily needs. In addition, the grandparents who lead households are often illiterate, and many attach little importance to education and thus do not encourage the children to attend school.
SOS Children’s Villages seeks to help vulnerable children in Tlokweng and Gaborone by working closely with local authorities and by supporting existing social infrastructure. Growing up with ill parents or losing parents can be devastating for the development of children, and it is therefore extremely important to reach these children with psychosocial support.
To support vulnerable children’s emotional development and ensure that they have access to schools and medical treatment is crucial to improving their living conditions. Only through education and awareness-raising can the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS be contained, so that in the future Botswana will be able to dedicate its resources to the social and economic development of the country. Botswana’s ambitious targets in fighting HIV/AIDS have proven very successful so far, but they have also been very costly.
What we do in Tlokweng
Having fun at the playground at the SOS Children’s Village Tlokweng (photo: M. Morosini)
The social centre run by SOS Children’s’ Village Tlokweng reaches out to vulnerable children and families in Tlokweng as well as in Gaborone. Where needed, we provide school uniforms and we support families in sending their children to primary or secondary school. Most of the households we support though our social centre are headed by terminally ill parents or by grandparents.
Psychosocial support is important for children from such fragile backgrounds. We seek to empower these children through different initiatives such as camps where children can meet other children with similar backgrounds. At these camps, the children receive emotional support as well as education on issues such as HIV/AIDS and alcohol, which could become a threat to their healthy development. Parents and caregivers are supported in acquiring income generating skills, and in Tlokweng, families are provided with vegetable gardens that not only allow them to grow their own food but also to harvest produce to sell at the market.
Since 1986, children with no one to care for them can find a loving home in one of 16 SOS families in Tlokweng. Together with siblings they grow up under the care and love of an SOS mother who is supported by social workers. In an SOS family, the children all have access to schooling. They go on to higher education or vocational training according to the individual development plan for each child.
When the children are ready for it, they enter the SOS Youth Programme, usually when they become adolescents. Here they typically live in shared accommodation with other young people from SOS families under the guidance of a qualified counsellor. This way, the young people learn to become independent in a supportive environment while finishing their education or vocational training.