It was a high school re-union with a difference, tinged with nostalgia, celebration and a bit of sadness as former students of Moeding College reminisced about the good old days when they attended the school under the stewardship of Principal Reverend Kenneth Maltus Smith.
Reverend Rupert Hambira delivered the homily. Also in attendance was Reverend Dumi Mmualefhe, who described Principal Smith as a man of few words.
“We are celebrating a life worth lived. Today we can see far because we are standing on the shoulders of this benevolent giant,” he said.
Rev. Smith passed away on Saturday 19th September at his home in Norwich, England, surrounded by family members. His family members said he took his last breath while sitting in the family room, listening to the soothing sounds of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s ‘Raise Your Spirits Up.’
Masego Mpotokwane, who was also a student at Moeding College between 1970 and 1974, said Principal Smith imparted in him a sense of pride about Moeding College. To date, more than four decades later, he still has his school uniform.
“I tried it on this morning and it still fits. But it was so tight that my son warned me that it will tear if I sneeze, so I couldn’t wear it to this occasion,” he said.
Mpotokwane spoke about Principal Smith’s extraordinary leadership style, which earned him respect and fear in equal measure among students and teachers alike.
“His army-like walk along the corridor evoked order and calm where just a few seconds ago there was chaos. It was as if we could smell him. We knew he was coming even when we didn’t see him. Nobody looked forward to being called to the Principal’s office,” he said.
He also regaled attendants with the story of one ‘Rock of Ages,’ a somewhat truant student who regularly tested the Principal’s patience. On one very hot Sunday morning, Rock of Ages decided to wear a blue jersey, supposedly over his shirt, during inspection. It was very hot and Rock of Ages was the only student wearing a jersey. Smelling a rat, the Principal lifted Rock of Ages’ shirt and, to everyone’s utter shock, there was no shirt underneath.
“Rock only had a torn collar at the top of the jersey. But he wasn’t able to beat the cunning Principal Smith,” he said.
But Rock did get away with one thing during his frequent encounters with Principal Smith. He got the shock of his life one day when he saw the Principal’s Peugeot (number plates BF 207) approaching from a distance. You see, Rock had sneaked off to the nearby Otse village without permission. Backed against the wall, he had to think fast. If caught, he would bear the full wrath of Principal Smith and face severe punishment. So he took off his shirt and pretended to ‘herd’ a nearby flock of goats like the village boys would. It was his lucky day because Principal Smith drove by without even a glance, unsuspicious.
Principal Smith had a soft spot for students who excelled in their academics. He initiated the honour roll, which was used to publicly display the names of students who performed well in their studies.
“A few years ago, I realised that Principal Smith still kept those records. He referred to the honour rolls, which are over 30 years old, in my correspondence with him. His meticulous record keeping was legendary,” said Mpotokwane.
Smith’s daughter Anney Aves also shared a bit of insight on her father’s life before and after Moeding College. She said her father planned his own funeral. She also said she was shocked by her mother’s precise and vivid recollection of exactly how long she had been married to Principal Smith.
“She says they had been married for exactly 52 years, two months and 19 days,” said Ave.
Other notable Moeding College alumni who attended the remembrance were former Ministers Tebelelo Seretse and Frank Ramsden as well as Kgosi Mosadi Seboko. Born on 22nd November 1926, Smith was the son of Frederick Maltus Smith and Ellen Smith, who belonged to the London Missionary Society. He was born in Jammalamadugu, India, where his parents were working. He went to primary school in India and then travelled by boat to London for boarding secondary school. At the break of the World War his school was relocated to Taunton, where the young Kenneth ended up as Head of House in 6th Form. He went for the British Army National Service between 1946 and 1948, where he served as a transport officer between the Middle East and United Kingdom.
Smith later studied Geography at Cambridge University where he met his future wife Mavis, who was studying Mathematics. He then did his Diploma in Education at Mansfield College and trained for ministry at Chestnut Theological College. Kenneth and Mavis got married in 1953. He started his teaching career in Norwich at St Marks School (1952-1953). In December 1953 he sailed to Africa with his newly wedded wife. They settled in Southern Rhodesia at Inyati Mission School where he worked as a teacher between 1954 and 1957 and later Principal from 1957 up to 1968.
He had a fulfilling time building both a reputable educational institution and his family. It was there that his two eldest daughters, Anne and Catharine were born. Amongst the alumni of Inyati that Smith recalled are Alice Banda, who held various ministerial positions in the government of Malawi and Botswana’s own Charles Tibone. Rev. Smith became Principal of Moeding College from 1969 to 1986. He was buried on the 5th October 2015 in his home country.