The Importance of Investing in Youth

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Imagine growing up in a dry, desert terrain. The summers are long and hot. The winters short. You didn’t grow up with many toys in the house. You live with your grandmother and both of your parents are deceased. You really like attending school. One day after school, you decided to sign-up for the netball club and fell in love with the sport. There isn’t a lot to do in your neighborhood. Most kids play outside after-school or walk around the neighborhood. Sometimes their parents or grandmothers don’t know exactly where they are. You like to stay close to home. 

As you get older, you realize there is less and less to do. You focus more on netball because your friends are trying things you aren’t comfortable with. Your one friend is pregnant. Almost all of them have started going out to the bars to drink. You only have to be 18, but most people start before then. You don’t like the bars…they’re loud and crowded. People drink too much. Except they are everywhere, there are two bars just down your street. And three more around the corner. And you know a friend who sells marijuana. 

Your netball coach inspires and encourages you. You practice all the time, even when you aren’t with the school team. You have your little sister help you with running drills. You create your own workout routine. Eventually you become team captain.

It’s time to graduate from school. You have a lot of dreams and ambitions, but you aren’t sure how to reach them. No one has taught you about planning ahead and reaching your potential. You thought maybe you could make the country netball team, but you missed the deadline for application. You passed your final examination to graduate, but you aren’t sure what careers would be best for you. 

Slowly over time, you become less interested in netball and working out. It’s easier to stay at home and talk with your grandmother; or to stay in bed all day. Your grandmother wants you to find a job, but you don’t have interest in looking. What’s the point? You have no skills to offer. There is nothing to do in your town. You have started to hang out with new friends and they invited you to go to the bar tonight. 

This is a completely fictional story…yet there are some realities interwoven which ring true for many youth and young people in Botswana. The intent of the story is not to inaccurately portray life here and say that everything is bad or negative, but to describe the common obstacles that young people face in Botswana. Due to city infrastructure/planning, lack of resources, socioeconomics, and many other factors; there aren’t safe and healthy outlets for children and youth to engage in. Here in Francistown, there are two city parks but not many children have access to them and they aren’t entirely safe. There are no recreational facilities or community centers. In fact, there isn’t a community swimming pool in town. This leaves very little positive activities for children to engage in after-school or during school breaks. A lot of children and teenagers can be involved in clubs after-school, but many students don’t participate or the club only lasts an hour. There is a lot of free time, with little to do. 

You see a lot more creativity here in regards to play and fighting boredom. Some of it is innocent child wonder and curiosity, but sometimes it can be risky with no adult supervision (whether it is common or not). 

With boredom, lack of good role models, lack of activities, and peer pressure; some young people can become involved in drinking, drugs, sexual activity, and other risky behaviors. Teenage pregnancy is a growing issue in the country due to lack of education and the stigma that exists around safe sex. 

Part of the reason we were so drawn to the Bokgoni Sporting Club was due to their vision about empowering and bettering the youth of Botswana. Parks and facilities could be built around the city at some point, but the young people also need positive role models who are showing them healthy lifestyles and are consistently present and available. 

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There are so many creative, intelligent, talented, and especially energetic youth in Botswana, that channeling their gifts through positive outlets would have a major impact on not only their future, but the country’s as well.

Bokgoni offers a healthy outlet for young people to engage with mentors and other young people through mainly recreational, but also some educational opportunities. Nearly every week day, and occasionally on Saturdays too, you can find organized Bokgoni-led netball and soccer practices/games at an open space area in Somerset-Extension, Francistown. Twice a month Bokgoni leads educational workshops that focus on things like physical health, emotional well-being, and various life skills. Although the netball team is for women and the youth soccer team is for children, Bokgoni Sporting Club is open to all young people and the “young at heart” in various ways. Leaders, mentors, supporters, and anyone looking to exercise or learn are welcome to Club practices and events.

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Bokgoni Sporting Club just held a free all-day community event in July, that was open to the public at their grounds in Somerset-Extension. There were games for children, a jumping castle, prize games for all ages, youth soccer, women’s netball games, collaborating local businesses/organizations present, and lots of food. This is the first of what will be an annual event at Bokgoni’s grounds that recognize the importance of community involvement and promoting/living healthy lives.

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Coach Mothusi Kenosi, who is the founder and CEO of Bokgoni, had a vision and dream for young people in his neighborhood nearly a decade ago. The dream was to provide a safe place and positive outlet for young people to channel their energy and reach their full potential. With help and support from his church community and friends the Bokgoni Sporting Club NGO was born. The NGO has slowly been picking up steam and it’s impact is growing and reaching different corners of Francistown/Botswana. A plan to develop a park and recreational facility where the current grounds are is in store. A lot of work still needs to be done to achieve this goal, but Mothusi’s vision is coming to life. It is no coincidence that the NGO’s name is Bokgoni, which means “potential” in Setswana.

It is difficult to find people and organizations that have a large impact with few resources, but Bokgoni is doing a lot with a little. As Bokgoni’s resources for the youth and network grows, so does it’s impact. If there is a word in Setswana that means “sky-high,” it would be an accurate term for the potential impact that Bokgoni could have on it’s community.

 

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