Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Inferno that gutted boys hostel at Nata Senior Secndary School

Nata village, situated at confluence of the A3 and the A33 roads north west of the City of Francistown and south of the township of Kasane. The village is prone to natural disasters like floods and calamities such as fires. Bush fires are also a natural phenomenon and they are usually expected every winter when it’s the dry season in Botswana.

Just recently, there was a fire that gutted the entire lodge and its peripherals in the same village. The cause the inferno was suspected to been caused by an acacia tree that was burning and the wind blew the fire which caught the thatch grass and caused the irreparable damage. While the fire destroyed the facility that included the shopping mall, the village did not help but looted whatever they could lay their hands on.

It is surprising that hardly a month after the inferno at the lodge and shopping mall, another one broke out at Nata Senior Secondary School where the boys’ hostel was gutted to ashes. Though the cause of the accident is still under investigations, I tend to rule negligence on the part of the school administration. According to what I gathered from the media, including what was broadcasted on BTV, the school administration is not performing its duties. The Minister of Basic Education, Hon Fidelis Molao visited the school to get first hand report on what transpired and was shocked at his findings.

I remember when I was a boarder at Madiba Secondary School before it became a Senior Secondary, back in 1976. We had a Boarding Master and a Matron whose sole responsibilities were to monitor the welfare of the boys and girls boarders respectively. Their responsibilities also went as far as managing and supervising at the kitchen where all students had their meals.

Some ten years later, I joined the Army as an Officer Cadet where I spent one year in the barracks. The setup at the dormitories by then was peculiar to that at the barracks. There is an Officer who is on duty weekly to monitor the trainee officers. We woke up early in the morning at around 04:30 hours, make our beds and clean the  area around the ablution blocks and sweep outside, wash and wait by your bed for an inspection to be done before we go to school or training. In the evening at 22:00 hours, all the lights were put off and everyone was supposed to sleep.

What I see happening at boarding schools at the moment is different from what should be happening because it looks like there is no supervision. Students are on their own at the dormitories and the teachers at the Staff Quarters. I take it that you don’t need an expert to come and tell you what the cause of the inferno was. What we have seen at dormitories leaves a lot to be desired. There is graffiti on the walls, illegal connections of electricity of which you cannot rule out that may be the cause of the fire. We also learn that students were even cooking for themselves in the hostels. Where were the Headmaster, Boarding Master, Duty Teacher and Parents Teachers Association (PTA)? The buck stops with the Boarding Master and the Headmaster. If what we saw on BTV is true, then there is something wrong with the system and the running of the school.

Government cannot lose billions of funds like that just because somebody is sleeping on his or her job. Whether an investigation is going to be done and the report is issued the fact of the matter is that the damage has been done at the taxpayers’ expense. We cannot allow our students to control us and damage public properties.

We actually have an epidemic of lawlessness in our schools countrywide. Just visit the nearest junior secondary school closest to you and you will be shocked at the state of the facilities there. The students have literally hijacked the education system in this country. Literally, all the investment put up by government has been reversed.

The school hall at every one of these facilities remains as the worst building. Doors are missing and where there is one it remains without a handle. Window panes have all been broken and even the ceiling is either broken or spattered with some liquid, either tea or urine. In every school, it is only the administration block that remains in a desirable state.

We must not blame the teachers for what is going on in our schools. We have all allowed it to happen and over the years this has now become youth culture Botswana. This culture of vandalism has been allowed to fester for years now and it is time that the nation rises to the challenge and address this major problem.

Botswana was one of the first countries to enjoy what was known as International Direct Dialing in Africa way back in the 1980s. It will now come to shock you to learn that this country has had all its public phones vandalized. Even a major facility such as the post office has nothing of that sort. Get to Gaborone Post Office in the Main Mall, where once stood the mighty telephone only remains an empty space. This is all with compliments to our vandals.

The Ministry should thoroughly investigate this and address the situation which looks prevalent at other boarding schools before another incident takes place. We cannot classify this as an accident because obviously the problem is there. Heads must roll and beyond that we need to re-think our strategy as a country in the way we want to establish discipline upon our youth.

Major (Retired) Masimege B.M.  (DSM)


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