Sunday, May 9, 2021

Prof Setumile Morapedi: Compassionate community builder

Many had not known her until her passion, innovation and creativity landed her on the project which was motivated by the youth’s exhibits at the Moshupa Development show under the theme “Growing Moshupa Constituency 2010 & Beyond’, where the residents show-cased their work.

The show was initiated by the Moshupa legislator Mokgweetsi Masisi, the current Vice President of Botswana. He, therefore, became the patron of the Project.

Professor Setumile Morapedi, a lecturer at the University of Botswana, Department of English says the exhibition revealed talents of all sorts.

“I was deeply moved by the talents shown by the youth and then realised the need to take them to a higher level than where they were. I prepared a 20 page proposal for the project right away, targeting the O Level out-of-school youth,” she says.

Dubbed Moshupa Study Group and Reading Rooms Community Project, it started operating in Moshupa in 2011. Prof Morapedi was coordinator of the project. Ever since then, the meaning of her first name ‘Setumile’ which means ‘it is famous’ manifested.

The aim of the project was to assist the youth who have dropped out of secondary schools to upgrade their grades, with the hope that they could further their studies and subsequently get jobs or self-reliant occupations to help themselves and their families where necessary.

“In particular, the project assisted the youth in terms of tutorials and critical thinking required in real life, which are the doorways to networking, business, social and economic issues in one’s life. The project drew tutors of various subjects from Moshupa Senior Secondary School and Kanye Brigades. Apart from the subjects taught in secondary schools, the participants also studied electrical course, travel and tourism, poultry, dress making, print making, photography, pottery, catering, bakery, agriculture, horticulture and sign language,” she explains. They were trained, got attached to work places and, subsequently, did Certificate courses in vocational schools. Some are reading for Diplomas, others have established their own businesses.

The project is highly transformational since it has turned over 300 formerly stranded youth into tertiary going students and entrepreneurs. Prof Morapedi and her team of 40 tutors taught Literacy and lifelong skills to the project participants. Institutions that provided assistance include Ministry of Education, Madirelo Training and Testing Centre, Botswana Examinations Council, Botswana Training Authority and BOCCIM officials. To her delight, numerous tertiary institutions admitted the project participants to read for various programs after having upgraded their grades through the assistance of the project. Among them University of Botswana, Kanye, Molepolole, and Serowe Institutes of Health Sciences, Molepolole and Tonota Colleges of Education, Botswana Accountancy College, Botswana Agricultural College and Botswana Police College.

She says, “The study has shed some light on the nature of the problems faced by the out-of school youth and how their needs can be appropriately met. The study showed that the youth were a concern to the residents of the village as they would just idle or resort to getting involved in clandestine activities, such as drug and alcohol abuse.” She cites the view from Pro-Literacy World Wide that “High school drop-outs are three times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested in their life time”. She stated that it was for this reason that the project aimed at selling the idea to the government with the hope that it could later be rolled out to other villages in the country, supervised by the University research centre. The study realises one of the Goals of the University of Botswana Plan for A Strategy for Excellence to 2016 and Beyond. The project addresses University of Botswana’s objectives of intensifying research, integrating research and teaching, and reinforcing the University’s engagement with the community.

Her message to the youth who have not made it to the tertiary institutions is that when difficulties such as the ones mentioned above arise, they should compose themselves, their thoughts and features. “They should think deeply of where they could have gone wrong. They should think along the lines of upgrading their grades and go back to the normal conventional education mode or study vocational courses where they can subsequently be self-reliant,” she says. She strongly discourages them from resorting to clandestine activities that are likely to land them in trouble and even destroy their lives. She advises the youth that have not made it to tertiary institutions that, “Life is not a bed of roses and that it is a normal feature of life that people can flunk. One is bound to have some hiccups which can be easily put right if one is determined to do that.” She says she found working with the youth very fulfilling as it was a way of giving back to the community.

Professor Setumile Morapedi holds a PhD in Syntax ‘grammar’ from the University of Sussex, MA-General Linguistics, University of Essex, MA- Applied linguistics, University of Sheffield, BA-Humanities (English and Setswana) Post Graduate Diploma-Education, Diploma-Library Studies from University of Botswana. She has published 21 refereed journal articles, book chapters, published conference proceedings, and a book. She has presented 62 papers in international conferences and seminars in various places in the world.

She has 22 years of tertiary teaching experience. Six years were spent at Molepololole College of Education, where she taught English language and literature. She has been teaching English Language in English Department at the University of Botswana for 17 years. Prof. Morapedi long had a passion for a teaching career. During the time when she was a librarian and also student at the University of Botswana, she taught in a private school as a part timer for 15 consecutive years until she joined the teaching profession 22 years ago. She is married to Pastor Dennis Mazwamuse, a Motswana of Ndebele origin from Zimbabwe. She has one child.

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