Botswana turned out to be the elusive dream
-disillusioned spouse

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
December 3, 2000

A former immigration officer and poultry/cane farmer who accompanied his spouse, a teacher, to Botswana, Africa, has returned home and is now temporarily separated from his family because he was a liability to his wife there.

Preferring anonymity so as not to disclose his wife's identity, the man said that he returned to Guyana in February this year, two years after he had left the country with his wife and two children. He said he decided to relate his experience after reading some letters to the editor in the Stabroek News about the conditions under which teachers and their families live in Botswana.

The man said that when he and other spouses left here they were promised jobs. He left behind a thriving poultry business and a cane farm as he had hoped that the job in Botswana would have compensated for his business back home.

On arrival in Botswana, he said, he found out that while his wife had obtained working status the Botswana immigration did not grant him and other spouses the same status.

He sought a job as an immigration officer and applied to the Ministry of Labour for a work permit. He waited for three months for a response and was denied the work permit. Through an agency, which cost a reasonable sum of money, he appealed the refusal. But the appeal was also turned down five months later. The explanation was that the jobs were for the local people and if the local people could not fill the vacancy, the position would be advertised and a selection process would begin.

At present, he said, there were many spouses in Botswana who had left good jobs back home in Guyana and would be glad to return home. However, since they have no guarantees that they would be re-employed or find another job, they were forced to remain there. He said that he was able to return home because he had his poultry and cane farm.

Prior to leaving Guyana, he said, his family had been told they would have had to choose between a two- or three-bedroom house. However, when they arrived in Botswana they were put up in a hotel. After two weeks, they were told that if they remained in the hotel half of their salaries would have been deducted to pay for meals and accommodation. He said they formed a delegation and went to the relevant ministry to express their concern. In the end they had to rent houses, which were not up to standard, because the houses they were promised were still being built and were not completed until the end of November, 1998.

The situation, he said, was ridiculous for his family. To have their two children taught lessons in English, they had to enrol them in a private school, as government primary schools taught in the native language. The school was 27 miles away in the capital Gabarone and after paying transportation for a while his wife was forced to buy a car.

Eventually they moved the children to a primary school closer to where they lived, where English was taught as a foreign language. Since then his son gained entry to a secondary school where lessons are taught in English. His daughter is still at primary school and is being taught in English by her class teacher, though this is not really allowed by the school.

The man said that it was not advisable to take families to Botswana. He said that the first year he was in Botswana a parent was forced to send her three-year-old child back to Guyana during the Christmas season because she could not afford to pay someone look after the child properly. He said some families were posted very far from the capital, noting that one family he knew was about 300 miles from the capital but they maintained telephone contact with other Guyanese.

He said that Guyanese, in fact, the whole West Indian community there was very close. While Guyanese were in the majority, he said, there were Jamaicans, Trinidadians and a few Barbadians. He said that some teachers from other CARICOM countries had noted that the conditions were not what were promised and those from Barbados and other Caribbean countries had had their stories written up in their countries. This has stopped teachers from those countries going there. The last batch comprised mainly Guyanese with only one other national from the Caribbean. He estimated the Guyanese teaching population alone to be about 225. Many teachers had taken along their spouses and one or two children as the package allowed for children under 19 years.

He claimed too that because of the AIDS epidemic it was not the best environment in which to bring up children.

A few spouses, he said, had left their husbands or wives behind and migrated to other countries in search of jobs. He said he could not stay in Botswana as his wife had to support the entire family. He started to become frustrated and depressed and had to make the decision to return to Guyana. His wife still has another year to serve before her contract ends. (Miranda La Rose)

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