Since last Thursday a strike has been brewing among undergraduate students at the University of Botswana. The students are upset about the following issues (there may be more but this is what I am aware of):
- Students who failed courses last year are not getting their government allowances for retaking those courses
- Students are being forced to live on campus even though some of them want to live off campus
- No students have received their monthly allowance for February yet (this is what really set off the strike on Monday)
So the past few days a group of 500-1000 students have been holding rallies and marching around campus with sticks forcing others out of class, closing down the cafeteria and the library. Many students tried to go to class, but we were chased and told to go back to our rooms or join the strike. I tried to take pictures of the strikers one time. Big mistake. They chased me but luckily I was on my bike, and I don’t think they meant any harm, they just wanted to cheer when I left.
So today, I was at the Baylor Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence (they specialize in pediatric HIV/AIDS) volunteering and someone told me the university is being closed by the government. I rushed back to the graduate dorms to find a few ground level windows busted out and riot police.
So no class for the indefinite future. Here are some pictures I could sneak from the window.
broken windows at the University of Botswana graduate dorms
riot police on campus
students evacuating campus
The Pan-African Universities Debating Champtionship began yesterday (Monday the 8th). One of my tasks on Sunday was to take the care the debate organizing commitee is renting to the airport. I was to collect 8 people, 4 from Zimbabwe and 4 from Uganda. Luckily another guy drove his car so we could take them all in one trip. Double luckily the airlines lost all of their luggage so we could fit everyone in our very small vehicles
VW Chico circa 1991. You can still buy these new in Southern Africa.
As it ended up (and appropriatly enough following up on my last blog post from over a month ago) I ended up with the Zims in my car. We had the following conversation.
Me: “So where do you go to school?”
Lucy: “University of Zimbabwe”
Taylor: “It is the only university in Zim that isn’t closed”
Me: “Oh, I see”
Lucy: “But we don’t have any lecturers”
Me: “Because they havn’t been paid?”
Lucy: “For over a year.”
Me: “So do ya’ll stay on campus?”
Taylor: “Campus has not had water or electricity all year”
Lucy: “So it is not sanitary or safe to stay there”
Me: “Oh, so do you commute?”
Lucy: “Most students can’t afford to commute, so they don’t come”
Taylor: “Those that can aford to commute come once or twice a week”
Even though I gathered they probably had not been to class all semester they were still keen on finishing school and their declared majors. Taylor is studying journalism. We both laughed when he said his major. I asked if the atmosphere was still oppressive and he said that even the Intelligence Officers complain openly. The last person left pretended everything is salvageable will be Robert Mugabe. It will be a case of one person believeing a lie at the expense of a nation..
Last Thursday I took a bike ride to check out the Botswana Consumer Fair. This is an annual event where producers from all of Botswana, and some from South Africa, display their products for consumers and dealers in Botswana. It was not difficult to find as all I had to do was walk with the rest of the masses assuming we were all going to the same place. Combie (15 passenger vans) prices went up so more people are walking now. I noticed plenty of parents with kids and some people even stopped me and asked I take their picture.
...and now they are on the internet. Who coulda guessed?
It cost around 3 USD to get into the consumer fair, but it was so big I bet someone found a way to get in for free. The first thing that caught my eye was a carnival set up just like it would be in the U.S. Farris Wheel, mini roller coaster, spinning vomit inducing rides ect. Then I noticed just about everyone eating ice cream. And if they were not eating it they were holding 2-5 pints looking somewhat confused as what to do to keep it from freezing. The ice cream companies were at the fair and had a promotion price of around 5 Pula per pint, which is less than 90 cents a pint. So I got some ice cream too, and it was good.