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From Ipelegeng to Nursing

Generally, many young people lose hope and give up on their dreams after failing either their Form 3 or or Form 5. Otlametse Shapa found himself down in the dumps working in Ipelegeng, but fought back to achieve his dreams. He speaks to Mmegi Correspondent, NNASARETHA KGAMANYANE

Many young people’s lives are ruined by drugs and alcohol abuse, as they abandon their studies and wind up either unemployed, engaged in crime or doing menial tasks.

Otlametse Shapa did not exactly follow this path. The young man from Maun, who grew up in Kasane, saw his dreams shattered when he failed his Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) in 2008.

Like many of his peers, he had challenges. Many are derailed by drugs and alcohol. Shapa’s problems extended to being disrespectful to his parents and disobedient. He simply did not take his studies seriously.

“Growing up, from primary till junior school, I was disrespectful to my parents. I stole from them. When they tried to discipline me, I would fight back or speak back anyhow I saw fit.

“I gave them a hard time. My behaviour extended to shoplifting, something that my parents didn’t know about. I would steal things like Sweeto to drink and sweets, biscuits.

“I was even caught one day, but by the grace of God the owner of the shop forgave me. He didn’t take any action against me perhaps because he knew my dad. Despite my bad behaviour I passed my JCE (Junior Certificate of Education) results with grade B and proceeded to senior school,” he said.

Even though he started well at senior secondary (Form 4-5), Shapa lost focus along the way.

He developed a bad attitude towards his studies and did not do his assignments well in time. As if that wasn’t enough, the young man started having issues towards some teachers and their subjects. His studies took a downward turn.

In Form 4, Shapa suddeny gave his life to Christ, but the turnaround was too late and in fact, the pendulum swung too far to the other side, as he now spent too much time at church, than on his studies. Instead of studying, the young man would read the Bible. He could not balance his faith and his studies. Failure was just up ahead.

“When I failed BGCSE, I was disappointed. My family lost hope. It was a sad moment in my life. The thought of knowing that my friends were going to university and I would be stuck at home, killed me. I

knew I had to find a way forward. I told my parents I wanted to rewrite some of the subjects I failed, but my father wasn’t sure about the idea.”

His father agreed, but that was only the beginning of the matter.

“I was faced with a financial challenge. I had to figure out how to get money in order to rewrite my exams. I applied for a job at the supermarkets with no luck,” he says.

Life had turned its back on the young man. Years of ill-discipline and disrespect had eventually led him to a dead end so early in his life. He took his mother’s advice and enrolled with Ipelegeng, government’s social safety net programme. “I worked at Ipelegeng the whole of 2009 earning P300, which I saved till I accumulated enough to pay for my exams,” he explains proudly.

“Working in that programme was not easy. My friends from school laughed at me and looked down upon me.

“However, I did not lose focus. I wrote the subjects I had failed.”

In 2010, Shapa’s E in Mathematics, D in English, Es in Biology and F in Physics, transformed into a C in Mathematics, C in English, and A** in Double Sciences, after help from the Mater Spei study group.

Hard work and dedication had turned the young man’s life around after what appeared to be a dead end. He applied to Serowe Institute of Health Sciences to study General Nursing and was admitted and graduated in 2014.

Today, he works as a Senior Registered Nurse at Maunatlala Clinic and is also involved in community service. The former delinquent runs a grassroots soccer programme under Peace Corps as a skills coach and has also partnered with schools where he does motivational speaking and mentorship of students.

“I persevered because I had a dream. I learnt from my mistakes and corrected my ways and stayed committed to my dream.

I had a family and church that supported me against all odds.

“I am where I am because I had people who believed in me and encouraged me to never give up. I encourage all students that failed either their JCE or BGCSE to never give up and keep on persevering towards achieving their goals.”




A collapsing Education system

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