Roads recently led to Shashe River Senior Secondary School in the sprawling village of Tonota, where the school celebrated its 50th years of existence as well as awarding current students with prizes for excelling in academics and extra-curricular activities such as sports and debate.
The celebration, aptly themed “Celebrating The Past, Igniting the Future: A Call for Stakeholder Participation”, took place inside four giant marquee tents that had been erected on the grounds previously occupied by red-bricked (later painted white) grass-thatched rondavels that used to be boys’ dormitories.
Former students had come in large numbers, though more would have been ideal. But they did come. These included director general of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, Brigadier Joseph Mathambo, Nnunu Lesetedi, who not only holds the rank of Assistant Commissioner of the police, but has been the face of its campaign against drugs from recent previous years to last year.
Retired Botswana Defence Force officer, Losika ‘Six’ Keatlholetswe, who arrived at the school as a Form 1 student, was also in the midst of the group inside the tent facing north.
At the pinnacle of his career, Keatlholetswe was the coach of the Botswana national football team aka the Zebras. He now runs a lodge made up of grass-thatched huts, very much reminiscent of Shashe dorms, within the village.
Tonota was well represented with Thapelo Olopeng, who was Tonota constituency Member of Parliament (MP) just before the recent dissolution of the national assembly in preparation for the general elections, giving a word of motivation towards the end of the official ceremony that started on a low note.
Also present was former MP, Pono Moathodi aka Triple-P, other community and political leaders in dikgosi and politicians respectively.
In celebrating the past, the audience went through mixed emotions as former students related their experiences when they first walked through the school gates.
Lesley Beregane, one of the first students, said when he completed Standard 7 in 1968, with his mates, who include Tapiwa Maphakwane, he was told they were going for “training”.
Hence, in December of the same year, they trooped to the location of “training” which they called Swaneng. He said they called it Swaneng because the idea came from Serowe, where a training institution of the same name had also just come up.
At the training ground, Beregane said they were joined by other students from Swaneng proper. They were later told the training venue had a name change to Shashe River School.
The two upper level schools, with Madiba in Mahalapye were started by a South African exile of that time, Patrick van Rensburg, who brought with him the concept of education with production, whereby students did not only learn to read and write, but also practically learnt building and construction as well as other crafts.
Beregane also said at the school, those who wanted to do academics would be taught English, Mathematics and Development Studies, but those who excelled would then opt to add the crafts so as to be well rounded individuals who would not only easily find jobs in the market, but also be capable of creating employment.
Apparently, Beregane’s children followed their father’s path to higher education as they too all schooled at Shashe. After a lifetime of transfers and changing of jobs, Beregane eventually settled for a construction company, but not before he did some teaching privately and set up his own private school.
Beregane expressed happiness at being able to still meet and greet one of the first employees in one Merafhe, now clearly in his 90s.
However, a dark cloud shadowed the proceedings due to the demise of Debswana managing director, Albert Milton who passed away during preparations for the anniversary.
An alumnus of the school, Milton who was class of 1981, was to be showcased as a product of Shashe who had really made it in life. Other alumni who were praised included Bathusi Lethare, a farmer of note in the Serowe area, University of Botswana lecturer, Professor Emmanuel Botlhale, Godfrey Chimbise, the Tonota Sub Land Board secretary and many more.
Another man who was applauded at the event was Clement Jorosi, the no-nonsense former head-teacher, who was the first citizen to head the school. Jorosi who was at Shashe from 1982 to 1986, had taken over from a Briton, David Coultard, who went back home in 1981.
The man of the moment was Lucara general manager, Johane Mchive who reflected on the theme saying it was apt that the former students and workers found it fit to go and celebrate the day with the present students. Mchive said as a company, Lucara did not believe in dwelling on the status quo.
He said because of that they managed to unearth huge stones in Lesedi la Rona and Constellation, which were sold for millions of pula. He said in order to excel, students and others, including the alumni and former workers should do likewise so as to unearth more of their talents and abilities.
Besides the moving oration, Mchive also presented the school’s Parents and Teachers Association with P30,000 to help in their capacitation. Lucara and other companies like Botho College and GIPS donated a variety of prizes for excelling pupils.
A Form 5 student, Tebogo Major-Mucheche was the toast of the gathering as his name kept being called time and again. Luckily his mother is still young enough to walk fast, and the duo repeatedly went to the podium to receive the gifts, including a laptop.
The day could not have been successful without the full participation of the school staff led by head teacher, Mpaladzi Majingo, head of department and Lena Lekgetho, a member of the class of 1990.
Pinnie Tshwene who is a teacher in Nswazwi, spearheaded fundraising through a court of injustice that raked in some funds that were used to buy anything that was needed on the day.
Others were Spinkie Mahole, a teacher at the school and Babatshe Paphane. The only fly in the ointment was that as proceedings were running late, the last item on the programme, a tour of the school, could not be undertaken due to time constraints.
So the day was truly a celebration of the past with the aim of igniting the future while calling on stakeholders to come together and support not only Shashe, but education in general.