Saturday, July 4, 2020

Molefi Secondary – A school with a tricky history

By Kwapengng Modikwe

Mochudi, January 12: What a coincidence! Molefi Secondary School at the boseja area of Mochudi, quietly turned 50 this year. Likewise, one of its first members of the teaching staff, Garry Whisler’s wedding to Baba Whisler also turned 50 this year. The couple got married in 1969, the same year the school opened its doors for its first intake at the present premises.

On August 3, I happened to be among scores of people attending the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration in Mochudi. It was fascinating seeing Garry’s relatives and friends from the United States mingling with their Batswana in-laws in an event which was characterised by Setswana culture. Garry, Tom Anderson, Sheldon Praiser arrived in Botswana from the United States a year or two following the country’s attainment of independence to take up teaching posts at various places under their country’s Peace Corps programme. The trio were selected for schools in Mochudi. Garry and Tom went to Molefi Secondary while Sheldon went to Isang Primary.

The Whislers’ decision to celebrate 50th wedding anniversary and that of Moeng College to celebrate its forthcoming 70th anniversary, seem to have shaken some former Molefi Secondary School students who are wondering as to whether their former school will ever do the same. They expressed their concern in their WhatsApp Group page called Molefi Alumni.

Molefi Secondary School has a tricky history. There are those who think that its 50th anniversary was in 2015 because it became a secondary school in 1965 at the present Seingwaeng Primary School buildings. That time secondary education was run by tribal government.  Others argue that Molefi proper began in 1969 when the school moved to the present location at Boseja with all the facilities which qualified a school as a real secondary school provided by the independent government.

The 1969 first intake at Boseja was the most interesting. It was a mixture of a large number of students from all over the country something unseen under the tribal government. Previously, tribal governments admitted a sizeable number of “outsiders” in their schools, the largest intake reserved for students in a locality. The admission of so many students from outside Kgatleng was to some extent, a social phenomenon which liberated students who had never seen the “outside world” before or who believed that Kgatleng was the end of the world. For instance many students from the Kgatleng area had never had contact with their counterpart from the Bokalaka area. Many of them had grown up not knowing the existence of societies outside Kgatleng except Tlokweng, Ramotswa and Molepolole where their movement had been restricted by various factors including perhaps travelling costs and minimal intra-tribe communications that existed at the time.

Thus the new Molefi school students from the Kgatleng who had never had contact with Bakalaka students were amused upon hearing the latter speak. They were not familiar with Kalanga accent. They found it strange. Sekalaka names such as Chadzizane, Chatiwa, Malibamba, Unankoni, Chantapiwa and Wali sounded comical. Likewise, there was always an amused look in the faces of the students from Bokalaka upon hearing “funny” names such as Radifalana, Ramonogana, Kesentseng, Magobosha and Radipeipi. But soon students began to befriend each other and understood other societies’ cultures.

The new Molefi Secondary School was not a Form one affair only. There were a few Form twos and threes who were transferred from the old school. They were totally outnumbered by the Form ones. The first week was interesting as Form twos and threes tried to enforce the uncivilised and barbaric exercise called “treatment” in which older students in a particular school harassed new comers under the guise of welcoming them in a new environment.  Interestingly, there were brave ones among the Form ones who resisted the treatment boldly arguing that everybody was a new comer at that school. “We are all new here, you and us”, a brave Form one student was heard telling a Form two student.

The headmaster was a man called David Maine, gray haired, not tall and not short and not lean but not bulky. He was nick named “64” after his van’s registration plate number. He was tricky if not naughty. He would appear to be warning the Form twos and threes to stop harassing the Form ones but elsewhere in the corridors of the new school, he would be heard giving approval for the continuation of the “treatment” exercise.  With such an encouragement coming from the head, the marauding Form twos and threes would pounce on the Form ones like wild-dogs on cattle. But more often than not, the attack achieved very little as it met resistance. The exercise lasted a few days.

That was in 1969. Fifty years later, the majority of that year’s teaching staff are no longer alive. Great men like David Maine, Joe Moqhum, Jimmy Moilwa, Ralph Moanakwena, George Motshelanoka and “Mmamoxolo” Tiro have since died. Those still alive are Gerry, Tom and Uyeka Sola. The first two were volunteer teachers from the United States. Whistler has decided to settle permanently in Mochudi while Anderson is in Pennsylvania. He was in Botswana during BOT50.

Tracing some of the pioneers of the present day Molefi Secondary School otherwise referred to as the class of 1969 is not difficult. Most of them are scattered in various sectors of the economy.  Many of them have held higher positions of responsibility. At school, the 400 Form ones or so were classified according to performance. There were classes for fast learners and others for slow learners. Those in the class of fast learners included the likes of Sentsetsa Pilane,  Letsebe Mogomotsi, Thari Ntshole, Maclean Letshwiti and the two Kutlapye ladies, Mmaphiri and Mmakgetse to mention a few. They were brilliant and did their work sedulously. Mmaphiri has at some stage served the country as an immigration attach├® in South Africa. Agnes Taukobong is a retired teacher staying at home in Ramotswa. She recently expressed the wish that this year should have been celebrated so that it brought the class of 1969 together. She is a member of the Molefi Secondary School alumni association whose chairman is retired Colonel Fred Bakwena who was the country’s military attach├® in Zimbabwe in 1993.

Sentsetsa Pilane had a brilliant scholastic carrier earning four university degrees. She has PhD in philosophy from the University of Alberta in Canada, MA in education from the University of Brunswick in Canada and MA in science from the same university and BA from the University of Botswana where she graduated with a combined chemistry, physical geography and education degree. Her website states, “Dr Sentsetsa Pilane is a scientist, a passionate educator, mentor and community builder who believes in lifelong learning, human adaptability, strength based approaches to creating opportunities for holistic empowerment and expansion of human capacity”.

Dr Sentsetsa is currently lecturing in Canada where she is also extensively involved in out of school youth programmes. She began her work as a teacher at Seepapitso Secondary School in Kanye before lecturing on chemistry at UB from 1984 to 1995. She escaped the 1986 raid by airborne South African commandoes at a residential complex at Mogoditshane. She was just preparing to go to work when she saw a military helicopter dropping the dogs of war inside the yard and remained hovering over the skies of Mogoditshane. Another helicopter belonging to the dogs of war sprayed Sir Seretse Khama Barracks with bullets forcing the BDF generals, Mompati Merafhe and Ian Khama in doors for their safety. Dr Sentsetsa awaited her death in a wardrobe where she had taken cover. Fortunately, the enemy withdrew from the scene when her room was next to be attacked.

From Molefi, Ntshole proceeded to UB where he graduated with a BSC degree which allowed him a teaching post at Swaneng Hill School. He taught for about one and half years before joining Kgalagadi Breweries as a microbiologist, brewer, quantity manager and brewer master. As a brew master, his duties involved supervising brewing of beer, its ingredients and making necessary process changes. He has since retired from Kgalagadi Breweries. However, he has not lost touch with beer. Currently he is Chibuku distributor for the villages of Bokaa, Morwa, Rasesa, Pilane, Malotwana, Artesia and Dikgonnye.

After completing secondary education, Maclean Letshwiti went to the university. After graduating, he got involved in the country’s economic drive in the private sector. He is a respected entrepreneur whose expertise spans business management commercial and industrial, according to Wikipedia. He is currently chairman of Avis. However, the position which puts him in the spotlight is that of being the president of Botswana Football Association (BFA). He serves in FIFA and CAF disciplinary committees. Ever since becoming BFA boss, Letshwiti has devoted much of his time to the development of football. He has even reached out to former football players by inviting them to BFA functions and honouring them.

Besides that, Letshwiti is Kgosi Kgafela II’s business advisor, the position which he diligently and professionally performs. His association with Kgafela dates back to the days when they were involved at Centre Chiefs. When Kgafela became kgosi, he became deeply involved because Kgafela had progressive business ideas.

And there is the renowned Dr. Mogomotsi who has university degrees in preventive veterinary service from University of California in the USA and also from Liverpool in the UK. Since completing school, his energies were spent in the public service for close to 30 years. His duties included coordinating disease control activities. He is now a pensioner offering private veterinary services to the farming community in Kgatleng.


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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.