Beginning 2019, each secondary school in Molepolole has been assigned a junior kgosi (traditional leader; plural dikgosi) as a sort of liaison officer between the school and the community.
Bakwena supreme traditional leader, Kgosi Kgari Sechele, says that this arrangement was motivated by mutual concern on the part of both the village’s tribal administration and school management about deteriorating academic performance and indiscipline.
“Students come from the community and it is important to involve the community in their education. If a student misses school, the school management has to know what about the home situation might cause that to happen,” says Kgari, adding that junior dikgosi act as a crucial link between the school and the community when such issues have to be resolved.
Ordinarily, the function that junior dikgosi now serve would be served by the Parents Teachers Association. However, these dikgosi are able to provide a very special service that PTA members can never provide because they are neither presiding officers nor tribal elders.
Over the past several years, student indiscipline (especially at senior secondary schools) has reached a new high. At Madiba Senior Secondary School in Mahalapye, a male student has assaulted a teacher in front of other students and hundreds of kilometres away in Moshupa, a group of male students went on the run after threatening to kill a teacher. Not too long ago, a student hauled before a school disciplinary committee for kicking a teacher said that he couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about because he had actually been unsuccessful in what he had intended to do – “castrate” the teacher.
“Ke mo hositse,” he said nonchalantly, meaning “I missed.”
Child Line Botswana has all but admitted that when franchised into public consciousness through early public education campaigns, the idea of children’s rights was not paired with children’s responsibilities. In another odd context, Child Line presented rights as a novelty when indigenous culture has always accorded children their rights.
Kgari says that the remit of the dikgosi that he has assigned to secondary schools includes overseeing corporal punishment. Resultantly, wayward students are either brought before a ward kgotla for caning or a kgosi goes to the school too supervise such punishment. This arrangement has far-reaching benefits for the culprits because other than the behaviour modification that they personally benefit from in the long-term, criminal records are not generated for these intervention episodes. In the alternative scenario where such records are generated, the accused student would find it extremely difficult in later life to enter formal (and often lucrative) employment.
Molepolole has eight junior secondary schools (Moruakgomo, Tshegetsang, Motswasele, Kwena Sereto, Sedumedi, Boitshoko, Masilo and Dithejwane) and one senior secondary school – Kgari Sechele. Kgari says that primary schools have been exempted from the Tribal Administration-administered arrangement in question because primary school pupils have not exhibited any discipline problems. The Bakwena kgosi adds that on account of Covid-19, those involved in this initiative are not able to meet to evaluate progress.