It may be the 50th anniversary year but most of us, if challenged, would be hard pressed to pin down the major trends, achievements and personalities of those 50 years.
How should we distinguish what is worth knowing from what can be set aside?
Prompting this concern was a recent visit by a parent and his child, a Standard VI student, who needed help in answering Social Studies questions which had defeated both of them.
What is the BNF’s motto? What is the BCP’s motto? Who founded the BCP? I was exasperated.
Of what possible use could it be to a Standard VI student to know this kind of thing?
Of the mountain of fascinating, important, intriguing information about this country which should be of benefit to the young, and might even interest them, we require them to know this almost North Korean stuff.
I was not asked about the similar questions which must have been posed about the BDP probably because those answers were already known.
Why would children be asked to know what can only be of little value to them? But then what should they know about this country’s exciting 50 years journey since Independence?
I much hope that the government has commissioned two suitable people to produce histories, one compact and one rather larger and therefore more detailed. The likelihood, almost certainty, is that they would differ. And this should be expected because the exercise would undoubtedly be tricky.
Ten years ago, it was felt that the publication of a history of the years since Independence would be a fitting way to celebrate the 40th anniversary.
An eminent historian was asked to provide a draft and a sample chapter or two. But it didn’t work, there being agreement by those involved that, for whatever reason, it simply missed the mark.
Perhaps it was too much of the plod, plod kind of history, perhaps because it was a mechanical recital of the main events – necessary, of course, but tending to be boring.
What was missing, as far as I can remember, was the spark, that sense of excitement which was so much a feature of the first post Independence years. Awareness that there was anything of the kind seems already to have been lost.
For me, however, they were vividly brought back firstly by the arrival of a photo taken on the November 24, 1962 by British volunteer, Andrew Rutherford at the Bangwato Development Association base at Radisele.
It is not the greatest photo because, unfortunately so many of those present had their backs
Nevertheless, it is of great interest. Shown in the photo are most of those who had come together for Guy Clutton Brock’s farewell.
Amongst them were Ella Khama, Ben Thema, an individual who was identified only as one of Tskekedi’s sons who was perhaps Leapeetswe, Molly Clutton-Brock , Nona Kuenstler, Peter Kuenstler, Neil Parsons, Deidre Stanley and somewhere in the distance, Arthur Stanley.
This was surely a most remarkable gathering at, of all places, Radisele? For those familiar with this small part of this country’s modern history, neither the gathering nor the place will come as a surprise.
For everybody else, it must all seem very odd. Who, after all, was Guy Clutton-Brock and what had he to do with Ella Khama? Why would Ben Thema, Principal of Moeng College, be there with his young volunteer teacher, Neil Parsons?
And who on earth was Peter Kuenstler? Was this one photo, perhaps, an indication of something that should be included in a modern history of this country?
But then, almost coincidentally came Gasebalwe Seretse’s installation as Kgosi in Pilikwe and his stated determination to build on the work of the key people shown in this photo – in particular Ella Khama and the Clutton Brocks, in establishing the BDA, the first of the country’s modern NGO style projects.
But then, as a lovely addition, there arrived in the post a small book entitled. ‘Guy Clutton-Brock’, sub-titled Hero of Zimbabwe which was authored ‘by his daughter’.
The book is self-published and without an ISBN identification which means that the only way to get a copy must be via the lady herself, Sally Roschnik.
The book, just 75 pages long, is not in any sense a history. It is a very moving collection of personal pieces by people who Sally knew, by Sally herself, her recollection of growing up in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, her parent’s struggles there, and then their time in Radisele.
The stories have a rare immediacy, are poignant and affecting and show how fortunate was this country to have escaped
that kind of sheer awfulness. Lovely people, telling their own un-ordinary ordinary stories.
So, yes it was indeed an extraordinary time with Clutton Brock and Tshekedi making a beginning that was soon to be followed by PvR himself.
It is a story that needs to be told and which the young most certainly need to know.