Mmegi Online :: Swaneng early years: We are given the site - late 1962
Banners
Banners
Banners
Banners
Last Updated
Friday 16 November 2018, 13:42 pm.
Banners
Swaneng early years: We are given the site - late 1962

Standing, at sunset, on the western boundary of the land that had been allocated to us earlier that day by Kgosi Rasebolai Kgamane for the building of the new school, not far from Job Mataboge’s yard, Liz and I looked eastwards across the acacia-covered slope, dominated dramatically by two great hills on the skyline.
By Correspondent Fri 23 Jun 2017, 06:00 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Swaneng early years: We are given the site - late 1962








As we did so, a great golden full moon began rising from behind the larger hill, filling the sky and the land with its soft light.  There was no sign of human habitation nor sound nor movement of any living creature in this primordial scene.  We would never forget it.

We would start building where we stood, and from those memorable hills we would take the name for our new School. Those hills were Mma and Rra Swaneng.

Liz and I had spent several months planning for this moment.  There had been many meetings with the Bamangwato Tribal Authority, Rasebolai Kgamane, and his council.  Seretse Khama, then Tribal Secretary, had given the proposal his blessing.  We had set up a Provisional Committee of Tribal elders to apply for the land, to decide the location and the size of the land we required, the school’s name, the level of education, whether it would take both girls and boys, and the rules for admission.  The land was allocated in December 1962, and we had to be ready to open our school by the first week of February.

We had provided Mr Hunter, the Director of Education for the Protectorate, with all the necessary documentation. 

Regarding funding, he had accepted that we planned to open our school on a small scale.  Both Liz and I would teach and would draw low salaries.  We thought we could find enough money to build a classroom and some rondavels to live in by early 1963, and to keep the school going for the first year.

Future growth would depend on our ability to raise the necessary funds, but we thought that would be easier once we had made a start.  On this basis, Mr Hunter approved our proposition.

Guy Clutton-Brock of the Bamangwato Development Association at Radisele had listened to our plans and suggested that Liz and I seek teaching appointments in a primary school in Serowe, to get to know the practice and state of education in Bechuanaland.  It would demonstrate that we were serious about our plans to build a school.  Mr Hunter duly gave his approval once all the necessary paperwork had been completed and we accepted our posts at Simon Ratshosa Primary School for the last six months of 1962.

We lived next to the site, in a room kindly offered to us by Job and Maria Mataboge. They were a great support to us in those early days — he, often offering lifts in his truck if he passed us cycling home from school; and she, often bringing us tea, with bread or cake she had baked herself.

There was no public transport within Serowe in those days.  People walked great distances to attend to their affairs in and around the village.  They also travelled in all directions by bus, lorry, tractors with trailers and by ox-wagon to and from Serowe, to their lands and cattleposts.  There was a noticeable absence of able-bodied young men because many were away in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia as migrant workers.

On our daily bicycle rides through the village to the primary school, we learnt a great deal about the lives of the people at that time.

Knowing the present-day Serowe, it is really difficult to recall how things were 50 years ago — when Botswana was still Bechuanaland and a Protectorate administered by the British.

Serowe was one of the largest villages in Africa — eight miles across and with a population of about 36,000.

Most of the houses were traditionally built, with mud walls and roofed with thatch. Many had no toilets, and few yards had piped water.

People, mostly women and girls, carried their water from public taps and travelled far into the bush to gather firewood each day. Only the white traders and the Khama family had electricity in their homes.

At night, people used candles or paraffin lamps indoors, or sat in the firelight out-side.  Most people went to bed early.

Goats ran freely everywhere, nibbling every green shoot that struggled to grow in the parched, eroded, hard-baked soil.  And when rain finally came, abruptly, in drenching torrents with lightning

Banners

and deafening thunder, it carried away the precious topsoil, rushed down the gullies and was gone — leaving the riverbeds dry and dusty once again.

We did not know it then, but we were about to witness a period of devastating drought that was to last for several years and bring with it great hardship and suffering to the people of the country.

K.K. Baruti was the Principal at Simon Ratshosa Primary School in those days.  We were teaching pupils in their last two years of Primary school and he made us very aware that there were large numbers of primary school leavers throughout Bechuanaland, but few secondary schools.  Pressure for admission was intense, and we were very concerned that the bright, hard-working pupils we had come to know might not be able to continue their education.

I told the pupils who would be taking their final examinations of our plans to build a secondary school, and I invited them to join me in the afternoons in working on the new school land.  Some might indeed be admitted and would have an incentive to see a school arise from the bush.  But in case some did not get a place, everyone who came to help would receive five cents an afternoon — a fair sum, at the time.  Liz and I paid this out of our wages.

We had two main tasks on these afternoons, given our limited funds.  The bigger boys hacked away at thorn trees to clear a road from the school to the Palapye road, while the rest of us gathered stones and worked on measures to contain and overcome the terrible erosion that we had witnessed — to try to hold the soil and moisture if it should rain again.

Each night, after marking and preparing the next day’s lessons, we wrote letters to friends and family, to all the people we’d ever met, asking for funds for the school.  Liz appealed to the Olympia company and they donated a typewriter; Liz’s uncle, Harold Blackham, had written to say he was sure he could find £500 from the British Humanists and US $5,000 from his friend, Dr Prynce Hopkins in the USA local trader, Benny Steinberg, promised to drill a borehole for us, and by the next day his crew and rigs were on the site.

In December, a group of some 20 volunteers, mostly students, and of all races, arrived from the South African Work Camps Association (SAWCA), to help start building Swaneng Hill School.

By now, we had just enough money to build a classroom and a rondavel for us to live in (and promises of more). Every one of them worked hard, but none of them had building skills.  We engaged two local builders for whom the work-campers provided labour: carrying water, bricks and other building materials, digging foundations, mixing concrete and carting and laying it, collecting rock and sand infill and packing it, and mixing mortar.  They did a sterling job and when they left, our rondavel and the classroom were well advanced.

The work was hard and we had barely two months in which to complete it, but as a result of the collective efforts of the two builders — Solomon Matabane and Todd Kuhlmann — with a few hired local labourers to support them, as well as the hard work of the Primary school pupils and the work-campers, the buildings were ready by the end of the first full week of February 1963, and we opened our school on the targeted date.

Liz was six weeks pregnant when we were ready to open the School.  We would share the teaching when we began, between us offering English Language and Literature, History and Geography, Mathematics, and Science, and taking on Mr Peto Sekgoma’s elder son, Mokhutshwane, who had just passed his Senior secondary school examinations, to teach Setswana and Chemistry. We had spent many hours preparing for the first week or two of teaching and were more than ready for our first day.

 

* From PATRICK VAN RENSBURG’s unfinished biography, The Making Of A Rebel.

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Banners
Banners
Banners


Features
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 15:19 pm
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 15:06 pm
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 15:05 pm
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 14:58 pm
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 14:57 pm
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 11:24 am
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 06:45 am
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 06:00 am
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 06:00 am
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 06:00 am
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 06:00 am
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 06:00 am
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 06:00 am
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 06:00 am
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 06:00 am
Fri 23 Jun 2017, 06:00 am
Fri 16 Jun 2017, 17:12 pm
Fri 16 Jun 2017, 17:08 pm
Thu 15 Jun 2017, 15:58 pm
Tue 13 Jun 2017, 15:34 pm
Fri 09 Jun 2017, 16:45 pm
Fri 09 Jun 2017, 16:21 pm
Fri 09 Jun 2017, 16:15 pm
Fri 02 Jun 2017, 15:47 pm
Fri 02 Jun 2017, 15:41 pm
Banners
Banners
Subscribe to our Newsletter
have a story? Send us a Tip
Banners
  • Previous
    Next
    Masa Centre
    ::: Sunday 18 Nov - Sunday 18 Nov :::
  • Previous
    Next
    Riverwalk
    ::: Sunday 18 Nov - Sunday 18 Nov :::
  • Previous
    Next
    Gamecity
    ::: Sunday 18 Nov - Sunday 18 Nov :::
Selefu
Tla gae! Ke sharpo.
Banners
Banners
istanbul escort