Friday, July 19, 2024

San ace student breaks new ground

Despite Botswana being classified a middle income country, San children still face enormous cultural and material problems in adapting to mainstream education. Among them are hunger, discrimination and language difficulties. These challenges and other economic vices continue to negatively affect the participation of San students and their parents in education.

From the first day of schooling, San children have to contend with untold challenges, from a cultural and language shock perspective. These range from bullying other non-San students, to unprecedented levels of discrimination by teachers. They also face other insurmountable challenges such as walking long distances barefoot to get to school, suffer economic barriers characterized by poverty, hunger, malnutrition, disease, crime, alcohol and substance abuse, to name a few.

It therefore comes as no surprise that education outcomes among the San people remain the poorest of all the social groups in Botswana. Their languages composed of at least 56 dialects are not part of the school curriculum in Botswana; English (the official language) and Setswana (the national language) are taught in schools.

Born in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and getting accustomed to such a way of life, 19-year-old Ketelelo Moapare has defied all these odds, completing his Ordinary level and passing exceptionally with 48 points.  

Moapare has made history for the San people for being the first student to finish school and pass extraordinarily with 48 points for his General Certificate in Secondary School Education (GCSE). He attained an A* in Maths and Chemistry, an ‘A’ in Physics, Social Studies, Design and Technology, Biology, a ‘B’ in Additional Maths, in English which is his fourth language he got a ‘C’ and Setswana his third language he got a ‘C’ as well.

He moved with his family to New Xade when they were relocated by the government. 

During that time in New Xade, Moapare was enrolled in an orphan support group. Former Peace Corps Volunteer, Edward Pettitt,  who was stationed in New Xade, Ghanzi District, from 2006 quickly saw that he was intelligent and had leadership potential. 

In 2007, Pettitt opened a library in New Xade, at the offices of the Non formal Education, with assistance (and books) from the African Library Project (based in the United States).┬á The library was officially opened by President Ian Kama.┬á Moapare not only helped to set up the library, but was one of its first and most dedicated patrons.?“I encouraged Ketelelo to study hard in school and, after I left New Xade, he continued his schooling at Gantsi Secondary School. Every school break, when he came from Ghanzi, he would spend the entire break studying at the library and reading all the books on its shelves,” said Pettitt.┬á

Popularly known as the ‘Bush Mechanic’ among his people Moapare┬á said he owes this accomplishment to the former Peace Corps Volunteer, Pettitt┬á who was stationed in New Xade, Ghanzi District, from 2006-2008.┬áHis mother died when he was young, leaving him orphaned and under the care of his grandmother.┬á

“The motivation he gave me has carried me through, I was not interested in reading but he instilled that culture of reading in,” said Moapare.┬á During his time in primary school he was not that intelligent.

When┬áhe went to Junior Secondary he started to introspect┬áand realised that his background weighed him down, the tribe he came from┬áwas marginalised and that he was an orphan from a very poor background. “That introspection awakened a new man in me, who could stand out like any other child,” said Moapare.

When he started his senior secondary studies at Ghanzi Senior Secondary School self motivation kept him going. “I told myself I would not be discouraged with what other students say,” he said.┬á
Moapare said each day in school is characterised by stigma from other students who are always reminding the san students to go back to the bush and hunt.

The system itself is also contributing to this stigmatisation in lessons like social studies we are taught Basarwa are part of the minority groups. The history books are written portraying the san people in history as if they don’t exist anymore. This ancient portrayal of the San has taken out the desire to defy the odds from the San people.

This outstanding performance has attracted attention from different people in Botswana including Dr Tefo Bubi who has just finished his PHD studies in Bio Medical Engineering at Houston Texas. Bubi got to know of Moapare through Pettitt in the USA and has been helping him on the career path to take. “I grew up in Gaborone and Moapare’s story is motivating it has come as wake up call to me to realise that there is something can be done to develop the community,” said Bubi.

He said he has been helping him on the career path to take to bridge the gap in the healthcare system where Moapare comes from. There is one clinic in Dxana which is faced with serious challenges of electricity, water and in most cases lower petrol or diesel for the generator
Moapare has been offered a scholarship to do his advanced level at Maruapula private school by Minister of Education and Skill Development, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.  Through the help of his good friend Pettitt, Moapare has also acquired a scholarship to study in the USA for his tertiary education.

Government has made some attempts to empower the San people through projects like basket weaving; but they have not been successful because the reed is not accessible. Pettitt said Moapare’s story is an interesting one that could help Government understand what is happening on the ground and find ways on how they can address these challenges. The new generation tries to do hunting and gathering but eventually fail and this depresses most of them who then they resort to alcohol.


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