Thursday, January 20, 2022

Obituary Reverend Kenneth Maltus Smith MBE MA (1926 ÔÇô 2015)

Rev. Smith passed away on Saturday 19th September 2015 at his home in Norwich, England, surrounded by family members. He departed to the background music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo ‘Raise your spirits up’ in the family room. The news of his death spread over Botswana during the weekend like a dark cloud. 


Rev. Smith was the son of Frederick Maltus Smith and Elen Smith. He was born on the 22nd November 1926 in Jammalamadugu, India, where his parents were working. Both Rev Smith’s parents were London Missionary Society missionaries. 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 did the British Army National Service between 1946 and 1948 in which he was a transport officer between the Middle East and UK. His driving experience was very handy at Moeding College where he competently drove the school truck, “737”, on the sandy and dusty roads. He studied Geography at the Cambridge University where he met his future wife Mavis, herself studying Mathematics. He did his Diploma in Education at Mansfield College. He 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 was a teacher between 1954 and 1957. He became the Principal in 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, Smith recalled, are Alice Banda, who held various Ministerial positions in Government in Malawi and Botswana’s own Charles Tibone.


Rev Smith became the Principal of Moeding College, Otse, from 1969 to 1986. To me the Moeding College stint is all I know of him. It was characterised by his authoritarian character, the love for outdoor walking, an awesome energy for sport, an unwavering devotion to God and a passion for outstanding academic performance. He was also a very good Geography teacher which ignited my love for the subject. He served in the Botswana national examination and syllabus review panels for the subject.


Rev. Smith was respected and feared by Moeding students with equal measure. His army like walk along the corridor, which was so audible and clearly recognizable, would evoke sudden order from whatever chaos existed. Nobody looked forward to being called to the Principal’s office because it was a caning room. During my time the one student who tested the Principal often was “Rock of Ages”. On one very hot Sunday morning, Rock decided to wear the blue cardigan over his shirt for inspection. He was the only one wearing the jersey. The Principal smelt a rat. He lifted the jersey up and to everybody’s shock there was no shirt underneath. Rock only had the collar of a shirt at the top of the jersey. He did not get away with that stunt. The one Rock got away with was when he saw the Peugeot (BF 207) approaching him near the school gate from an unauthorized trip to Otse village. He told us that he took off his shirt and “herded” a nearby flock of goats like the village boys would. Rev Smith drove past without any suspicion.


The Principals love for students’ good performance was shown by the initiatives he took such as the Honour Roll which listed the best performers in class. A few years ago I found out that Rev Smith kept these records, when he referred to an over 30 year old record in my correspondence with him. His meticulous record keeping was legendary. When I was studying abroad and had to do a presentation but was short of Botswana slides I knew he would have what I need. I phoned him for help and got over forty annotated slides which were more than what I needed. As part of his love for sports I remember his excitement at Moeding sports days. I also remember the yearly staff versus students’ football matches during one of which “mogokgo” dribbled through a first team player nicknamed “Guitar” several times. Reverend Smith had an amazing recollection of his students’ names, character and any other relevant traits. When he left Botswana he told me that the students were now too many and he no longer felt in control as he preferred. One of the outdoor trips that I feel privileged to have been led by Reverend Smith is the walk up to Baratani Hill caves. He undertook the trip frequently during Easter weekend. For those who did not go away for the Easter weekend that was always the specialty. He would brief us well about the journey and hazards to expect in preparation. He always led the way and we never had any mishap. In 1986, after 33 years in Africa, he returned to UK. A big farewell gathering was held at Moeding College which included Rev Smith’s last service in the historic Assembly Hall. The service was preceded by a ceremonial inspection. It was a well attended and very emotive ceremony. We did sing his favourite, Hymn 1.


Once in the UK he served as Minster at Tunley United Reformed Church, Lancashire, from 1986 to 1992.  He and Mrs Smith enjoyed Tunley which made the move back to UK a happy home coming. In 1992 he retired from Tunley and moved back to Norwich to be near one of his daughters.  Here again husband and wife filled their days with Church work.  He assisted where Churches needed interim Ministry, sat on local and regional Church committees. With more time on his hands he now worked in the garden and grew fruit and vegetables. He worked with asylum seekers, motivating youngsters to play football.


Rev Smith linked up with ICT. He used the internet to send and receive emails and also “skyped” his wide circle of friends and relatives. He was an unrelenting learner all of his life. He studied and received a City and Guilds qualification in Calligraphy after retirement.


In 1975 his distinguished work and passion was rewarded when he received the Member of the British Empire (MBE) award from The Queen, at Buckingham Palace, for service to education in Botswana.


Rev Smith will be buried on the 5th October 2015 in the UK.


Masego A Mpotokwane (Moeding College, 1970 to 1974)


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