Sunday, August 7, 2022

“Lose the title, keep the people”

On Saturday 6 October 2012 I attended a get together of people who were born in 1962 and the majority of whom had been schoolmates and classmates at Lesedi Primary School and Gaborone Secondary School in Gaborone. Amongst them were those who had attended Thornhill Primary School and Maru-a-Pula. Others joined by virtue of having been born in 1962. Some brought their elder and younger sisters and brothers along. It was a wonderful and happy occasion.

The purpose of the function was to retain the spirit of togetherness that the same group had celebrated forty years together, as the Class of 1979 in 2002. I believe in 1979 GSS was a force to be reckoned with on the intellectual front. Most people lose contact with each other as the years go by. There was even a moment of silence for those who had passed on.

Strange as it may seem the above heading is a play on a line in the movie Notorious, where Notorious BIG tells Little Kim “lose the shirt, keep the suspenders”. Notorious remixed the hit “Juicy Fruit”, played on the night by DJ Mos, and exposed its youth and freshness. This get together did the same for those who attended. I do not recall anyone on the night seriously trying to put forth what their academic qualifications were, how wealthy they were, or their station in life. All forgot these attributes and all kept one thing and one thing only, the blessing of having had the fortune to have grown up together. It was a wonderful experience, for I have heard that at some of these types of gatherings some people try to throw their weight around.

Most importantly there was an air of comfort and confidence about where they were coming from, whom and what they were. I remembered that here were people who had grown up in an era of freedom and a desire for knowledge and excellence, with a healthy dose of fun. The self introductions were hilarious. Old names, probably not used in a long time were revived.

And on the night there was a lot of fun, especially with anecdotes from those with fairly good memories. Kana standup comedy is very old in this country; it is just that in those days you were not paid for it. On the night we had performances by Dorcas Phirie, an old hand at the game, and Branki. Phute refused to perform an old skit, football commentary, claiming that all the players had died. We also had some amateurs like Mabel do their bit. Some could recite passages from Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” in the very tones they used when still at school. There were also a few private exchanges when in small groups people would reminisce about the good old days.

Headmaster Butler Phirie had the ladies sing a hymn that they claimed used to be sung at morning assembly at GSS. I and some of the guys swore we had never heard the song in our lives. Thing is men and women who have different memory capabilities. Men generally remember the sort of troubles they got into with the establishment. Of course we were treated to some of the troubles the ladies got into. We had good teachers like the late Mme Mma Lekalake (may her soul rest in peace) and they were mentioned on the night.

There were words of encouragement from Ausi Snokie and Monty. It was instructive that they let the people know a thing or two about how to face the coming years. Also inspiring was that the people were to keep focus on the important things in live, being togetherness and looking out for each other. If only those born later than 1962 were present, they could have seen well preserved specimens of Batswana, and perhaps gotten a tip or two as to how it is done. Kana these days you come across someone in their thirties looking like a sixty year old who has had a tough time in life.

I cannot say too much about the dancing but did notice some old moves and new ones. I was impressed by some moves that to me would be very demanding as they require a certain level of fitness. I saw a few bellies carried with ease by their owners. As for the ladies I do not know where some of them have been. They do moves that on some occasions would be considered “illegal”.

One thing that came to mind was whether our country can claim the same sense of youth and freshness that these people demonstrated on the night. You see, the Lesedi Community Center used to have table tennis and fitness equipment. There were one or two music bands that used to practice there. I think Honourable Rakhudu and Soccer Moruakgomo can vouch for this. One would therefore expect that there must be some improvement that has occurred over the years. I hear people complain that our young do not have recreational facilities and resort to drugs and alcohol and wonder why we have not built on what obtained at the time. One would hope that our young throughout Botswana have what obtained at Lesedi all those years back.

As for drugs and alcohol, in those days you would find only about ten students smoked dagga and the majority of those who did dropped out at form three. As for alcohol, there were quite a few who imbibed but did so on very rare occasions. Congo related a story of how one time four of them shared two beers and then got into an evaluation exercise of whether they were drunk. One asked “ Are we drunk?” and the other responded “Yes were are” and that sealed the matter. They proceeded to the school hall for the Saturday record night and had a good time. That was the nature of drinking at the time not the sort that we now see where youngsters imbibe large volumes of alcohol and think that is fun.

In terms of progression within the public service a friend remarked that here were brilliant people and yet none of them was a Permanent Secretary. He proceeded to explain that they were not given those positions because they were independent-minded and not bootlickers. But I know for a fact that a majority are happy where they are, and are fairly up the ladder in their organizations. I reiterate that these are people who were taught by teachers who appreciated independent-mindedness. Some of these people had their mothers as teachers and they would be expected to perform and behave like the rest of their classmates. Tebogo Meswele related of an occasion when the MC was slapped by his mother for some transgression.

One of the guys from White City walked in with a beer in each hand. When asked why he had two beers at the same time he remarked that when he walked in and told the caterers that he had not had any food they gave him two beers. Tiego Rabasha suggested that the real reason was the old instinct acquired at GSS during tea break of “scramble”. There were times during tea break when all hell would break loose as people rushed to get their peanut butter layered slices. We had a laugh and the White City guy suggested that the music, soul, was too slow and that he preferred Mahlathini. It did not end there, he complained further that the music was for people who needed to soothe their souls. He left us writhing in pain and went to greet the ladies.

This seemed to be the pattern, someone would walk up greet you and relate an anecdote and leave you in stitches. Pinkie Jomo Morara Apadile ( I think there is a name missing) was a good laugh. Like most who are or were at one time or another married, she introduced herself as coming from two places, her maiden place and her husband’s place, Mahalapye.

I have had the pleasure of reading the emails regarding the event and they are all so positive. Everyone wants, and does give a big up to the organizers, Setshedi Botlhole (Mmopi) of Ramotswa and Serowe, Bridget Chiepe, Tiego Rabasha, Brankie Nhlekisana, Bogadi Ngwako, Isabella Kobue, Chedza Siwawa and Mabel Bowe. If there is someone I have not mentioned they will forgive me, I am still intoxicated by the fun. If there is someone I have added who should not be there, who cares, akere o ne a le teng ha go jewa monate.

Botswana has some quality people, and has done a very good job bringing this lot up. It should be proud of itself. We very often focus on so called developmental issues like infrastructure and forget the quality people that we have produced. We focus on people like me who place themselves in the public domain. It is only proper that we promote awareness of such people as we had on the night, so that our young can see what this country is capable of.

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