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Botswelelo aims to groom youth

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Over the past years there has been a rapid increase in youth unemployment and a decline in youth entrepreneurship globally.

Youth unemployment has become a threat to the social, economic and political stability of nations and deserves urgent attention as it threatens to violate the principles of equality and solidarity between generations, which is an important aspect of social justice.

Forty years ago an English man by the name of Julian Black offered free pottery training to the youth of Thamaga with the intention to keep them off the streets and to equip them to later open their businesses.

The manager for Botswelelo Centre Thamaga Pottery, Botlalo Keipeile said in an interview that Black had consulted with village authorities and Thamaga community whom welcomed his initiative.

Keipele said the project was established and named Botswelelo Centre Thamaga Pottery, a non-profit making organisation.

Currently, she said, the centre operates with 15 employees 10 of whom are elderly women who work at the production room.

“The centre manufactures and distributes stoneware products that are microwave, oven and dishwasher safe,”Kepeile added.

“These products, cups, dishes and pots are handcrafted and decorated with traditional Setswana designs inherited from Batswana ancestors and are decorations that they used to decorate the outside and their mud floors.”

Kepeile appealed to the residents of Thamaga to view Botswelelo Centre as their project and help in encouraging youths to take advantage by joining it.

She said the issue of low salaries was the one that demoralizes them to join Botswelelo disclosing that, the highest earner at the center gets P909 per month, allocated per an hour.

“This has a major impact in the centre as we are looking for fresh ideas and people to continue the legacy.

It really hurts to see our children idling and being involved in negative activities rather than working.

We decided to manipulate the situation by offering free in-house training but to no avail. We are not doing this for ourselves but to help reduce unemployment,” Keipeile revealed.

She further stated that despite the fact that the youth are sluggish to join the company, the issue of not having a marketing officer has also contributed to their stunted growth.

Keipeile also said that though they compete in different exhibitions such as the Global Expo the company still does not get satisfying publicity.

She further revealed that, Botswelelo is a community project that has allocated 25 per cent of profits for community projects, another 25 per cent for employee salaries while the remaining 50 per cent is for the development of the company.

“We have been struggling to make enough money as a result, failing to give out the 25 per cent for community projects.

We then decided to patch up by allowing art students from various schools to use our materials and machines to do their projects,” she said.

 Keipeile further added that after marking if the student wants her project she has to buy it or if it is not a good piece, they break it and the clay is reused stating that, they use expensive mould imported from South Africa.

The manager for Botswelelo mentioned slow production process as the other challenge saying, sometimes an order of 200 coffee mugs can take a month to be ready.

She also said, employee absenteeism also affects production as the production room is dominated by elderly women who in most cases do not turn for work due to sicknesses and other social commitments.

 Keipeile said despite the stated challenges, there is an improvement in terms of producing quality products.

She said the future seems bright for the company, as they have developed a relationship with some government departments who usually buy tea sets from them.

“Tourists are also our loyal customers and they usually buy small items such as candle light stands and decorating cutlery.

I believe they do so to avoid heavy language while individuals buy different items,” Ms Keipeile added.

Keipeile also revealed that, they have hired a qualified production manager and a bookkeeper to start work soon but are still waiting for money to pay them from African Development Foundation.

In conclusion, production room visitor attendant, 53-year-old Theko Dikobe explained the production process saying, the first process is at the clay preparation room, where molt and water is mixed, sieved and then prepared.

The second process being the throwing section is where throwing machines are used to prepare pottery and the last stage is at the keeling room where the products are burnt after glassing to strengthen them.

“Glassing is a process whereby products are dipped within a mixture of chemicals to strengthen, after they are taken for second burning of 1120 Degrees Celsius.

The heat has to be high so as to destroy all the chemicals. In my 10-year stay here, we have been attending some workshops to sharpen our skills.

I am worried that we don’t have youthful staff that will take the company on,”Dikobe concluded. ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Kenanao Mmop

Location : THAMAGA

Event : Arts business feature

Date : May 14 Wed,2014

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