Let’s learn about Botswana.
I know very little about this country. I’ve never been. Though I’m a strong believer in, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list,” Botswana has always flown under the radar for me. I’m ready to learn more.
I noticed that Botswana has popped up on several, “must see in 2016” travel lists around the internet. I wondered why. Well, 2016 marked the country’s 50th anniversary of independence. Here are some facts and children’s book recommendations to help you learn more about the country. (Feel free to download the free workbook, Using Books to Learn about Other Cultures, while learning more about Botswana.)
A brief history of Botswana before BotswanaBotswana - country of the Tswana. Bo means country and Tswana is the region they live. Learn more about #Botswana here. Click To Tweet
In the late 1800s the Tswana region in Africa was being attacked by Dutch Boers. The people appealed to the British for protection, and that protection started in 1885. The region then became known as Bechuanaland (more on this in a few).
In the early 1900s a variety of British colonies in south Africa joined together to become the Union of South Africa. The original plan was for Bechaunaland to become part of that union, but a tribe leader lobbied against. He was worried that this wouldn’t be good for his people. The merge was postponed. Eventually, due to apartheid in South Africa, the merge was cancelled.
Botswana gained their independence on September 30, 1966 and is now formally known as the Republic of Botswana. Botswana Day is a national public holiday, and spans two days.
A brief description of Botswana
Botswana is a land-locked country bordering South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and a small shared border with Zambia. Around 70% of the country’s land is made up of the Kalahari Desert. Another major area of land is the Okavango Delta.
Botswana is the 48th largest state in size (roughly the size of France) and a little over 2.1 million people (for comparison, that’s slightly smaller than the island nation of Jamaica).
A brief look at symbols in Botswana
The national flag is highly symbolic. The light blue areas reference water, a much needed resource in the country. The black band with white frame symbolizes the racial diversity and harmony in Botswana. It also represents the stripes on the Zebra, the national animal. More info
These symbols carry on into the country’s coat of arms.
The rain and water is spelled out with the word, “Pula“. Pula is the Tswana word for water, but is also the name of the currency and means good luck. The zebras are there again. The shield is a traditional East African shield.
The other images rounding out the coat of arms includes the cogs (for industry), tusks (representing former ivory trade and elephants), the ear of sorghum (a local crop), a bull (important for their economy), and waves to represent the rivers.
A brief look at the language in Botswana
The country’s official language is English. The main ethnic group of Botswana is the Tswana.
Whereas in many countries the suffix changes the words to indicate people and language (ie. Japan and Japanese), in Botswana it’s the prefix that matters. “Se” placed in the front of tswana, makes Setswana – the language spoken by the Tswana. “Ba”, batswana, the people as a whole. “Mo”, motswana, is an individual person, and “bo” is is the country – BOTSWANA.
So, remember earlier when I mentioned Bechuanaland? It was likely a mispronunciation or miscommunication of the British hear Bo-Tswana (country of the Tswana). So they called it what they heard, and then britishfied it to Bechuana-Land – The land of the country of the Tswana.
For a brief introduction to commonly used phrases, check out this Botswana travel guide site.
A brief look at books set and/or about Botswana for kids
We currently have 4 books in our directory set in Botswana. But, as I find more, I’ll add more. Here’s a little more information about the four books in the directory.
Precious and the Puggies by Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith is a Southern Rhodesia-born (current day Zimbabwe) British author. He wrote the popular series, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, a fictional story about a detective agency set in Gaborone, Botswana. He’s also written a series of books for children about the series’ main character, Precious. This is about her first case as a child.
This is the book I picked to read for my Botswana children’s book review. I’ll have my thoughts before the end of the month.
Read my review of Precious and the Puggies (aka The Great Cake Mystery).
Loreta and Her Wire Car by Lauri Kubuitsile
Lauri Kubuitsile is a children’s book author living in Botswana. One of her books, Loreta and Her Wire Car, has won the Golden Baobab Prize. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a source to purchase the book in the U.S. but you can read a play she adapted from her book on her site. She has also written other children’s books in English set in Botswana.
Wire cars are not just popular in Botswana, but throughout the African continent. They also go by the name Draadkar. Builders use found objects to make the car. Read more in the link above.
If you’re interested in trying to make one yourself, check out this link: Make a wire car.
Learn more about Botswana via my interview with author Lauri Kubuitsile.
This story was told to the author from a safari guide in Botswana. The guide learned it from his grandfather. In this folktale, the animals of the Okavango Delta are the characters teaching the lessons of respect and manners. More information.
Travels with Gannon and Wyatt Botswana by Patti Wheeler
This popular series of travel adventure stories is inspired by the author’s own love of exploration – and her twin boys Gannon and Wyatt. In this story, the family’s vacation gets sidetracked when they discover an injured lioness while on safari. They set off to help the save the cubs and encounter all of Africa’s big 5 – elephants, rhinos, cape buffaloes, leopards, and lions.
Read more of the real Gannon and Wyatt twins experience in Botswana. Or watch the video. The author of the series, Keith Hemstreet, also wrote a guest post about the Importance of Travel Journaling on this blog.
Learn about Botswana around the web
- If you’re planning a trip to Botswana, you have to go on Safari. Keep prices down with these tips (+ great photos) for Botswana Safari on a Budget.
- I love this story from someone who studied abroad in Botswana. Her perspective about the perception of the country and the reality is really interesting. Be surprised by her photos here.
- A special thank you to the gorgeous Chobe Game Lodge for giving us permission to use their photos for this post. It is the only lodge within the Chobe National Park located on the Chobe River. As family travel grows in Botswana, this lodge offers more family rooms and family-friendly activities.
Please leave your thoughts about Botswana or other book recommendations in the comments. And come back next week for even more information about Botswana for families.
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