Identification. Formerly Bechuanaland Protectorate under the British, Botswana became independent in 1966. Bot swana means "place of Tswana" in the dominant national language ( Set swana), and the citizenry are called Bat swana, or Tswana people. The term Batswana, however, bears a double meaning. In government rhetoric, it refers to all citizens of Botswana. But the word also refers to ethnically "Tswana" people, as distinct from the other ethnic groups present in the country. This double meaning allows for both the expression of strong civic national sentiments and debate about the dominance of Tswana people and ideology over the broader population. The double meaning has also permitted the fiction, widely accepted in outside reporting, that Botswana's success as a multiparty liberal democracy is based on an ethnically homogeneous population, when abundant state resources based upon diamond mining, responsibly and equitably distributed, are the more likely source of stability. This fiction may indeed have supported the building of an officially nonethnic, state-oriented society, but has come under sharp challenge in the 1990s, as minority groups request the privileges of official recognition.
Location and Geography. Botswana is a landlocked and arid country. Bordering on South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Zambia, it is 224,607 square miles (581,730 square kilometers) in area, about the same size as France. Two-thirds of the country is comprised of the Kalahari Desert, which is covered with grasses and scrub but has scarce surface water. Mean annual rainfall ranges from under 10 inches (250 millimeters) per annum in the southwest to over 25 inches (635 millimeters) in the northeast. The entire country is prone to extended droughts, causing significant hardship to agriculturalists, pastoralists, and hunter-gatherers. The Okavango Delta, in the north, is a large inland delta, and people there fish and farm on its flooded banks; tourists are drawn to the large numbers of wildlife that congregate in the area. The eastern third of the country, with more rainfall and fertile soils, is home to most of the population. Prior to independence, the British administered the Protectorate from Mafiking in South Africa. The capital city today, Gaborone, was built on a village site in the southeastern corner of the country at independence, near the borders of several of the Tswana polities that dominated the country.
Demography. Botswana's population has grown from 600,000 people in 1971 to an estimated 1,600,000 in 2000. While very high growth rates in the 1970s and 1980s have declined, high birth rates and declining infant mortality have led to a population structure heavily skewed toward young people: 43 percent of the population was under fifteen in 1991. Although ethnically Tswana people are often said to be a majority, government censuses collect no information on ethnicity. Earlier studies indicated that in some regions, Tswana were a minority, and that all polities were composed of people of heterogeneous origins, including Kalanga, Yei, Mbukushu, Subiya, Herero, Talaote, Tswapong, Kgalagadi, Kaa, Birwa, and varied peoples known as Bushmen (or, in Botswana, Sarwa). There are also resident Europeans and Indians.
Linguistic Affiliation. Bantu, Khoisan, and Indo-European languages are spoken in Botswana. English is the official language and Setswana the national language. This means that the language of government and higher education is primarily English, but that Setswana is the dominant language spoken in the country. Ninety percent of the population is said to speak Setswana. The term Setswana refers both to Tswana language, and to Tswana practices/culture, and there has been increasing resistance
Symbolism. "Pula," the Setswana word for rain, is featured on the coat of arms, and is called out frequently at public gatherings as a salute and cry of approbation. It is also the term for the national currency. The national anthem is "Lefatshe la Rona," ("Our Country"), and its title captures the strong attachment most Batswana feel to the land and its resources, as well as some antiforeign sentiments. Cattle were tremendously important not just to a material economy but also to the symbolic economy of status, family, and social relations in the past, and cattle remain powerfully evocative to most Batswana today.
Emergence of the Nation. People known colloquially to the west as Bushmen have lived in Botswana for thousands of years. Herders and agriculturalists from a Bantu tradition appeared more than two-thousand years ago. Tswana polities under Tswana chiefs moved into Botswana from the south and east in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, some responding to the rise of the Zulu state and European encroachments. Missionization of Tswana began in 1816, and throughout the nineteenth century Tswana polities were drawn into trade, Christianity, and the migrant labor economy centered in South Africa, while defending themselves against incursions from the north, east, and south. In 1885 the British declared the area the Bechuanaland Protectorate, and in a famous visit to Britain in 1895, three of the Tswana kings petitioned to remain under the British instead of being governed by the British South Africa Company. British administration in the twentieth century strengthened the role of the Tswana chiefs and the dominance of Tswana laws and customs over the country.
National political activity at first focused upon preventing the protectorate's annexation by South Africa. Later, as independence movements emerged across Africa, people from a variety of ethnic groups looked forward to independence and formed political parties. The move to independence was quite peaceful. Independence was granted to the newly named Republic of Botswana in 1966.
National Identity. As a new nation, Botswana emphasized nonethnic citizenship and liberal democracy. Diamonds were discovered soon after independence was granted, and the prudent and equitable use of their revenues has underwritten stability and the repeated reelection of the dominant political party.
Ethnic Relations. The domination of the country by the Tswana polities has persisted in a nonethnic government through the easy assumption of the predominance of Tswana people, language, and customs. Certain groups in the past were treated as serfs or subordinates by Tswana, such as the Sarwa, Kgalagadi, Yei, and Kalanga, and the latter two have been particularly active in the 1990s to secure official recognition for minority "tribes," and in ethnic revivalism. The nonethnic official rhetoric of civic participation, however, has also allowed many members of minority groups to move through the educational system into prominent management and bureaucratic positions.
Traditional architecture in Botswana is distinguished from modern architecture in three domains: the use of materials (mud/dung, wooden poles, thatch) that may be manufactured by members of a household; the round house form and/or thatched roofing; and/or the presence of a courtyard known as a lolwapa where much activity takes place. By contrast, modern architecture uses purchased materials (cement and bricks and roofing products) and involves the labor of specialized and commercial craftsmen, is square, and features rooms for specialized activities (bedrooms, kitchens). The traditional Tswana residential area is a compound, often housing several closely related family groups. Into the 1990s, much urban housing was financed and built by the government, and repeated a few basic patterns, including one that retained a courtyard structure, which later became unpopular.
Households in the Tswana polities often maintained three residential sites: one in a village, one at agricultural holdings around the village periphery, and one farther out at the cattlepost. Cattleposts, where livestock are kept, are today sometimes complex compounds with several houses and nearby agricultural fields, and sometimes just an animal pen or two and a ramshackle shelter for the herder(s). Many urban residents today continue to maintain a house in a village of origin, and many men and some women also develop cattleposts. Villages are distinguished from towns and cities by a significant engagement in agriculture by residents, and by the political structure of the settlement. At the heart of a village is the chief's central court and public forum, known as a kgotla. The village is divided into wards, each of which also has a kgotla where a headman hears lower-level disputes and matters of ward concern are aired.
Urban areas have grown rapidly in Botswana since independence. In 1991, 46 percent of the population was urban, a percentage that continues to grow. Cities are centered by a downtown area of shops, businesses, and government offices. Some larger villages have come to be known as "urban villages" or "agro-towns."
Food in Daily Life. Sorghum or corn meal porridge is the staple of most Botswana meals. People wake in the morning to a thinner version of the porridge, sometimes enriched with soured milk and/or sugar, and tea. A thicker version of the porridge, known as bogobe , anchors the substantial midday meal, accompanied by a stew of meat and/or cabbage, spinach (or wild greens), or beans. People also use rice, but it is considered more expensive and associated with Europeans. Meats include chicken, goat, sheep, cattle, fish, a caterpillar known as phane and various wild game. Village evening meals may include leftovers from midday, but for many people is often just tea and buttered bread.
There are many restaurants representing food from around the world in the urban areas. Fast food chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Nando's chicken, and Pie City are quite popular. In smaller villages, there are likely to be no restaurants. Fatcakes, somewhat like round doughnut holes, are sold as snacks fairly ubiquitously. Locally brewed beer made from sorghum is popular in the rural areas and is available commercially as chibuku; people also drink the stronger honey/sugar-based khadi.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. At large public events, such as the opening of a new government building, and at weddings and funerals, men prepare the centerpiece: meat cooked in large iron pots until in shreds. Women prepare porridge and/ or rice, pumpkin/squash, and often cole slaw or beet salad, and people are served heaping plates of food, arguing to get more meat for themselves. Beer is often served at weddings, and ginger beer at other events; tea and fatcakes are prepared for weddings and funerals that have all-night components.
Basic Economy. At independence in 1966, most people in Botswana relied on mixed agriculture (crops and livestock), hunting and gathering wild foods, and remittances from migrant labor in South Africa. But diamonds were found soon after independence, and since the 1970s mining has provided a strong backbone for economic development. Farming of sorghum, maize, millet, and beans, along with small stock and cattle, are still important for subsistence and also commercial returns. Because of drought and urban migration, Botswana no longer aspires to be self-sufficient in agriculture, but instead focuses on "food security" incorporating regular imports of grain and processed foods. Thirty-seven percent of formal employment is by the government (and almost 8 percent in state corporations), but employment in the private sector is now growing more rapidly; people work in service and retail, mines, construction, other industries, and in many small start-up businesses. Earnings are typically remitted rather broadly through extended kin networks.
Land Tenure and Property. About 5 percent of Botswana's land is freehold, and about 25 percent is state land in the form of national parks, game reserves, and wildlife management areas. The rest is communal land, also called "tribal land"; people are allocated rights to farm or build houses and pass the rights on to descendants, but they may not transfer the rights to someone else. Grazing land is generally not allocated, but people develop claims to grazing areas through registered wells and water rights. Some tribal grazing land was zoned for commercial development in the controversial Tribal Grazing Lands Policy of 1975, and is allocated in fifty-year leases. Land boards, composed of elected and appointed members, administer the allocation of tribal land. Although all citizens are guaranteed access to land, there have been many complaints about land board allocation; the association of "tribal" land with the dominant Tswana polities has produced demands by some minority groups for tribal lands of their own.
Commercial Activities. Agricultural products are marketed both through government marketing services and privately. Small-scale retailing of manufactured goods is widespread. Small home industries, such as sewing, cement block manufacture, other household goods, and construction are common activities, and the government is promoting larger industrial enterprises.
Major Industries. Botswana's diamond mines are jointly owned and operated with De Beers Consolidated Mines. Copper, nickel, and potash mines produce for an international market. Beef is exported as well, primarily to the European Union (EU) through the Lomé Conventions, designed by the EU to promote trade and development in third-world countries. Botswana has struggled to attract major industrial enterprise to the country. Textiles, clothing, and food processing constitute the major industries. Abundant wildlife, especially in the north, is the basis of a tourist sector that has focused primarily on high-end tours.
Trade. Botswana exports are dominated by diamonds, copper/nickel matte, beef and animal products; also exported are textiles and soda ash. In the 1990s, an automobile assembly plant added vehicles to the list of exports, but that plant was closed in 1999, and the government is seeking new operators for it. Around 80 percent of exports go to Europe. Diamonds account of about 80 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Botswana imports a wide variety of goods. Botswana is a member of the South African Customs Union.
Division of Labor. There was very little specialization in the "traditional" economy, with the exception of traditional doctors. Within the household, tasks were distributed based on age and gender. Tswana practices are often taken as representative of the country as a whole: hence the symbolically important area of cattle care is associated entirely with men. But women do care for and milk cattle in other cultures within the country (as, for example, the Herero). When ox-drawn plows, and later tractors, were introduced, men became more involved in crop agriculture. Apart from the heavy wooden supports, women did most of the construction and maintenance of traditional houses; today, men tend to specialize in modern construction techniques. Young boys and men, along with other dependent males, used to work at cattleposts, but now younger people attend school and Batswana complain frequently about finding reliable herders. In the "modern" economy, there is no formal division of labor by gender, age, or class.
Classes and Castes. In the past, class differentiation was not strongly marked in material life. Although cattle ownership was highly unequal, cattle themselves were distributed among many households for care and management purposes. In the Tswana polities, there was some differentiation between members of the chiefs' kin group ("royals"), commoners, and recent immigrants who had been incorporated into the polity. This differentiation was enacted at seasonal political rituals, such as the first-fruits ceremony. In the western and northern parts of the country, certain groups of people were essentially serfs, with few or no political rights, whose labor was compelled by citizens of the Tswana polities. These groups included Sarwa (Bushmen), Kgalagadi, and Yei in particular. These categories have, in contemporary Botswana, no legal standing, yet lingering prejudices and resentments of historical inequities continue to inform current social relations.
Symbols of Social Stratification. Late twentieth-century Botswana has developed one of the most skewed income distributions in the world. There is a developing bourgeoisie that has the ability to distinguish and reproduce itself through access to English-medium education, networks, and material lifestyle (including cars and electricity).
Government. Since independence in 1966, Botswana has been a multiparty democracy with elections held every five years to a unicameral legislature, the National Assembly, which has been dominated by the Botswana Democratic Party. There is also an advisory House of Chiefs, composed of the heads of the eight Tswana polities, and of chiefs elected from districts outside those polities. In 2000, the government undertook a review of the role of the House of Chiefs, and its constitution and role may be changed in coming years. Local government is organized around elected district and urban councils (with some appointed members), land boards, and village development committees. There is also a "tribal administration" organized under the Ministry of Local Government, Lands, and Housing. Chiefs and headmen are important figures both in villages and nationally, although they are forbidden to be active in party politics.
Leadership and Political Officials. Politics takes place in two forums, which are distinct in their underlying premises and the ways in which they are perceived by the citizenry, but which also overlap considerably. One forum is the liberal democratic party system and the bureaucratic apparatus of government. The other is focused on the chiefs ( dikgosi ; singular, kgosi ), subchiefs, and headmen; and the distinctive center of Tswana village life, the
Many Batswana look upon the consensual nature of kgotla debates, and the hearing of disparate opinions within them, as underpinning Botswana's successful constitutional democracy. It should be remembered, though, that the dikgosi were able to manipulate support through their great wealth and political power, that they declared many regulations without widespread support, and that only the voices of adult men were formerly admitted in kgotla. Indeed, in many dikgotla, ethnic minority groups were not allowed to speak, or their voices were significantly discounted. Furthermore, the emphasis on consensus at the end of debates meant that open disagreement was not tolerated—the illusion of homogeneity and consensus being created only through the silencing of difference and the exclusion of many possible voices.
Beneath the dikgosi were subordinate chiefs, in nesting levels like a pyramid, called dikgosana (literally "little chiefs"), going down to the headman of a ward, or neighborhood group within a village. The ward has often been represented as a microcosm of the tribe: composed of patrilineally linked families, headed by the senior male who negotiates disputes, and guarantees well-being through ritual/religious practices. Like the tribe overall, wards also include nonfamily who choose to reside near an in-married relative, or who attach themselves to the family group as dependents. Succession to the position of kgosana or kgosi is ideally patrilineal to the first son; since monogamy became the dominant form of marriage, succession has largely followed these lines. Previously, however, polygamy and practices of substituting a sister for a childless wife, and of marrying women to men after the men's death, made the senior heir difficult to determine, and inheritance of the chiefship was often a complex political battle.
Today the chiefs represent both a politics based on familiarity (in the sense both of kinship, and of personal knowledge of lives lived in proximity) and a morality of consensus. By contrast, party politics represents continued disagreement and a morality of individualism. The chiefs, representing a morality of group unity, have become the focus of minority claims to recognition in the nation. The morality of the political parties and the bureaucracy is not viewed entirely negatively: this is the domain in which women, minorities, and junior males have been able to attain position, and its morality accords with ambitions of self-development promoted by government rhetoric.
The distinction between the two domains is becoming more blurred, as ethnic minorities see chiefs as representatives in government, as subchiefs are elected by villages, and as the entire "tribal" system is administered by the Ministry of Local Government, Lands, and Housing. The chiefs are effectively under the minister, and lower-level chiefs are clearly salaried state employees. With 85 percent of court cases in Botswana heard in the dikgotla, a considerable amount of bureaucratic oversight and procedure now surrounds the chiefs' courts.
Social Problems and Control. Court cases are heard in magistrates' courts, based on Roman-Dutch law, and in chiefs' courts, based on customary law. Because the magistrates' courts are conducted in English and require a lawyer, most Batswana prefer to bring cases to the dikgotla, where lesser criminal cases are also heard. Here, much personal testimony is heard from all who wish to contribute, and chiefs' decisions are built upon the opinions of respected members of the community. Cases may be appealed in both systems, and there is an independent High Court. Theft, disputes over property, and personal relations are common court cases. There is an increasing fear of violent theft, and illegal immigrants and street youth are seen as particular problems. Batswana deal with social problems through gossip, witchcraft, and the courts. They tend to leave civic problems to the police; when they have taken matters into their own hands, the situation is considered a "riot" and police are called in.
Military Activity. The Botswana Defense Force was established in 1977, in response to armed incursions from neighboring South Africa and Zimbabwe. The army has grown considerably, accounting for about 9 percent of government expenditures in 2000; the population is proud of its participation in United Nations peacekeeping efforts.
Drought is a recurrent problem, and the government has provided drought-relief labor programs and has supported initiatives to combat declining interest in agriculture. Botswana's high population growth rate and an educational system oriented toward formal sector employment contribute to an official unemployment rate of around 20 percent in the 1990s. Many of these were youth, and youth disaffection was growing. Several nongovernmental and governmental programs targeted youth, focusing largely on sexuality, home-based industries, and job skills. Urbanization has also created problems for elderly people in rural areas, and the government introduced old age pensions in 1997. With HIV/AIDS producing a large number of orphans, Orphans Rations were created in 2000 to assist families in caring for them.
International donors, drawn by the stable democratic environment and the relative absence of corruption, have aided infrastructural development and social welfare programs. As Botswana's own resources have grown, international aid has fallen off: the Peace Corps and the U.S. Agency for International Development, for example, withdrew from the country. Botswana-based nongovernmental organizations have supplemented the internationally based aid programs, targeting health, families, women, youth, the environment, human rights, unemployment, and the disabled. Among the most important associations that the broad population joins are churches. People may also join ethnic associations, burial societies, and other self-help groups; some of these serve as rotating-credit clubs where people pool small financial contributions to give members an occasional large sum or loan.
Division of Labor by Gender. Tasks were assigned by gender and age in the traditional households among the different ethnic groups in Botswana. Hunting was primarily a male activity everywhere, housebuilding and agriculture primarily female, while work with livestock varied among ethnic groups. Among Sarwa, women have been active participants in political affairs; among Tswana, women formerly were not allowed to participate in their own right, except as an occasional regent. To some extent, traditional divisions of labor persist in rural areas. In the "modern" economy, there is no formal division of labor by gender, but fewer women are in upper-level management and government positions, and certain positions are gender-based (herders are male; housemaids are female).
The Relative Status of Women and Men. Today, after decades of labor migration, declining marriage rates, new laws guaranteeing women civil rights, and the modern economy, almost half of all households in Botswana are headed by women. Western education, the modern economy (particularly the service sector), and civil service positions have all
Marriage. The various ethnic groups have different marriage traditions. In past practices, most groups permitted polygyny (the taking of more than one wife), a girl's first marriage would be arranged by her family, and marriages involved bride-wealth or bride-service. Tswana marriages in the past were best described as a process, attaining the full definition of marriage often only after many years; steps in the process included requesting marriage and preliminary exchanges, sexual relations but not cohabitation, children, a public celebration, the establishment of a household within the man's compound, and bride-wealth. Bride-wealth is still common, polygyny less so, and while most marriages are still negotiated by family members, the spouses choose each other. Most Batswana register a civil marriage, as well as conduct marriage ceremonies according to custom at home, and many have a church wedding too. People may marry according to customary property provisions or civil community property arrangements, but in both the woman is disadvantaged, and the husband is likely to control the property. Divorce may be sought by women and men, with common reasons including adultery, failure to provide support or household labor, and abuse. But many women today are choosing not to marry at all, opting for autonomy and to retain control over their own children.
Domestic Unit. Most people belong to extended families that share a compound; within the compound the domestic units based upon a woman and her children are discrete. The Tswana pattern of multiple residences meant that families were often not coresidential, as some members worked fields, others tended cattle, and others lived in the village. Modern village-based households are again dispersed, through school placements, labor migration, and urbanization. These patterns have placed strains on the cooperative extended family, but most people still expect demands on their resources and time, and cooperation, from a wide range of kin.
The senior male is traditionally the head of the household, and is responsible for mediating internal affairs and representing the group to larger society. Today, authority in a compound may be diffuse, as younger members with technocratic skills or special agricultural training make many decisions and represent the group to outside bureaucracies. Even more dramatically, almost half of all households in Botswana in 1991 were headed by women.
Inheritance. Inheritance practices vary between groups. Dominant Tswana tradition in the past allotted the management of property (cattle in particular), and offices to the senior son of the deceased. Today, widows and daughters also inherit property, but their claims may be judged less important in court disputes. Nondisputed smaller estates including houses, furniture, small business capital, and clothing, may be distributed among descendants and other relatives by the senior relatives of the deceased, according to perceived needs.
Kin Groups. Tswana patrilineal customs predominate through the court systems, though kin groups are organized according to patrilineal, matrilineal, double-descent, or bilateral principles depending on the ethnic group. Some groups have named clans, others have more fluid boundaries. Kin groups larger than the household or compound group may cooperate for a healing or strengthening ritual invoking ancestors, and should participate in funerals, which are significant events for defining relationships and obligations.
Infant Care. Infants are carefully attended to and indulged. Mothers and older sisters carry infants almost everywhere in slings tied across the back. There is a prompt response to crying, with feeding, calming and jiggling, and attempts at distraction with keys or other small objects.
Child Rearing and Education. Toddlers continue to be indulged; adults encourage them to learn words, and jokingly threaten them with beatings or being taken away by passing police. As they get older, however, children are expected to contribute significantly to household work. They are often chastised for "just playing" and "not listening," and comments that they are lazy or bad outnumber praises of beauty or intelligence. By and large, children are spoken to, and should speak deferentially to their seniors.
Many women place children with their own mothers to raise, and the children do household chores for aging grandparents. Alternatively, working mothers will take in a (usually distant) young female relative, or a village girl, to help care for urban children. There is also an increasing use of preschools for the educational advantage they give.
As children become teenagers, they form groups and socialize more outside the household. Most Batswana consider teenagers children, being unable to make decisions or manage relationships; however, these ideas about age categories are changing. Initiation schools were formerly important, and are believed to have been where children learned about sex and relationships, but are held in only a few areas today. Formal education is considered the means to achievement in modern society, but many children receive little support at home to help them progress through school.
Higher Education. Higher education is considered very important by both the government and by Batswana at large. The country has invested considerable energy and money to improve primary and secondary schools, although there remains competition to secure places in senior secondary schools, and many students attend schools far from home. Students aspire to attend the University of Botswana.
Batswana emphasize extensive greetings and inquiries after each other. It is polite to address senior men as Rra and women as Mma (literally, father and mother). Grown women should keep their thighs covered, but more and more women are wearing tight pants, and short skirts are seen in urban areas. While younger people should be deferential to their elders, and women to men, these patterns are sustained more strongly in villages than in the urban areas.
Religious Beliefs. Most Batswana are Christians of one form or another, although some still follow local practices. Small communities of Muslims, Hindus, and Baha'is are present. There are numerous small independent churches led by local prophets,
Religious Practitioners. Batswana hold positions of responsibility in the Christian worldwide sects. Women and men with charismatic powers to heal and contact God originate and lead their own sects. At events such as weddings or funerals, leaders of different churches preside cooperatively. Within households, senior males generally are the ones to make contact with ancestors and to act on their behalf. Traditional religious specialists may bring rain, diagnose misfortunes, or strengthen households against evil influences and witchcraft, using herbs, roots, and special medicines. Some are thought to practice witchcraft, called boloi, and use human body parts to assist their clients.
Rituals and Holy Places. Apart from churches, there are no national holy places, and national ceremonies for Independence Day and President's Day are predominantly civic, accompanied by Christian prayer. Some members of various ethnic groups maintain ritual and holy places; for example, Kalanga locate Mwali (God) in the Matopo Hills to the east, and Herero will maintain a "holy fire," or okuruo in their compounds.
Death and the Afterlife. Most Batswana believe in a Christian afterlife and anticipate resurrection. People also expect the deceased to maintain interest in their descendants, as ancestral spirits. People want to be buried in their home villages, even those who have not lived there for a long time. Today most people are buried in cemeteries, but some Batswana are still buried inside their compounds. Funerals are very important events, at which a wide range of relatives, neighbors, and other associates are expected to attend; the expenses are heavy for many families.
Some illnesses are considered "European" and some "African" and are brought to medical practitioners accordingly. Other illnesses are brought to Western medical doctors, traditional doctors, and church priests/healers for the same ailment, or to as many healers as people can afford. Physical ailments and general misfortune are both considered treatable, and the latter is brought to the attention of traditional doctors/diviners and church healers who are likely to diagnose social causes—jealousies, malevolence, and selfish ambitions. Women make extensive use of government clinics for prenatal and child medical care. Sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, and malaria remain problems; the HIV infection rate is among the highest in the world.
Public holidays are scheduled for four-day weekends. Secular holidays include President's Day in mid-July, and Botswana Day on 30 September, which celebrates independence.
Support for the Arts. The government provides limited support for performance and plastic arts. Schools have choral and dance groups, and young people may receive grants to develop song-drama groups. The National Museum and Art Gallery promotes local artists, and hosts annual exhibits of Western-style plastic arts and traditional crafts.
Literature. Praise poetry was highly elaborated in the Tswana chiefships and there are still a number of older men proficient at it, but modern literary forms are not extensively developed as yet. Botswana's best-known writer is Bessie Head, a South African emigree who lived in and wrote extensively about the country.
Graphic Arts. Crafts, particularly basketry, along with woven hangings and printed textiles, are developed for the urban and tourist markets. Traditions of house-painting in south-eastern Botswana have declined over recent decades.
Performance Arts. Choral groups proliferate, often associated with voluntary associations, and compete in neighborhoods, villages, and nationally; an annual Eisteddfod is held for school choir and traditional dance groups.
Song-drama groups are formed by the young; their performances focus on social problems facing youth, including pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. Some Tswana musical groups are becoming popular regionally.
The University of Botswana expanded considerably in the 1990s, and aspires to market higher education regionally. Scholarship tends to be parochial, although some faculty are active in international academic circles.
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—D EBORAH D URHAM