Since it opened its doors to students for the first time in 2008, Goodhope Senior has wilted, thirsty in the southern sun due to a long-running water crisis. Apart from the lack of water, or because of it, student indiscipline has risen over the years. However, in a recent visit to the pride of Barolong, Mmegi Correspondent, TUMELO MOUWANE found that hope has resurfaced
Late last year, 32 teachers from Goodhope Senior were transferred following allegations of ‘political influence’ in the administration of the institution. Students were forced to go for months without teachers, but this was just one of the anguishes the 1,800-strong student body there has endured since 2008.
Goodhope’s water troubles, mainly the result of infrastructure problems, geology and the mammoth student population, have seemed on the cusp of being solved again and again, leaving parents and students increasingly exasperated.
In some instances taps at the school would go dry for months, a situation which posed huge health risks, especially in the 1,500-bed hostel facility. Students reported stomach infections whilst the cafeteria could not provide adequately to the hundreds depending on it everyday.
The violence that broke out in November 2014, when irate students clashed with police, teachers and security guards over a seemingly trivial incident, could be traced to overall disquiet and frustration with the water situation.
The water crisis was slowly stretching its tentacles to every part of life at Goodhope Senior, setting students and teachers on edge, while wrecking havoc on academic performances.
Last September, a Mmegi newscrew that visited Goodhope Senior, arrived in the midst of a peak in the water crisis, with some students suffering stomach aches after drinking from a contaminated Jojo tank. At the time, lessons had been suspended and parents asked to fetch their children.
On Tuesday, nearly a year later, Mmegi was welcomed by a totally different situation, with rays of hope once again shimmering on the pride of Barolong.
Dozens of temporary toilets, which had been put up to alleviate the situation, had been removed. The environment was aesthetic and practically litter-free. Classes were silently underway on the first day of school after the winter break.
At the hostels, the overpowering unfriendly odour that harassed the same news crew last September, was a thing of the past. The water drainage systems were fully functional, meals delivered on time and, according to the school’s authorities, incidents of ill-discipline have been remarkably reduced.
The school headmaster, Terence Seitiso said sleepless nights had been spent in bringing affairs back to order at Goodhope Senior. Seitiso transferred to the school from Nata Secondary and was thrown head first into the crisis.
“What I found when I arrived here was a total crisis. The school was totally below par in all aspects. There was a huge leadership vacuum as the school ran without a head, deputy head or heads of departments. There were only two HoDs and they were by then both acting as school head and deputy respectively.
The first thing I asked for was to be provided with support staff including a deputy head and other HoDs.
“The greatest challenge was the water shortage, which was much worse because by then the outer Gaborone was hard hit (by the failure of dams).
“We tried to source water from boreholes around the district but that didn’t help that much until we requested two bowsers, which specifically targeted the school. We also sourced and installed more tanks across the school.”
Seitiso threw all his energy into resolving
“Apart from the water challenge, the school was in a very unhygienic status. The school was very bushy and we realised that since its establishment, its environment had never been taken care off.
“We employed support staff to manage environment. Four hostel guards were also engaged and we have since seen a great positive change.The new head also set about re-instilling discipline among the student and academic bodies, which had slowly crumbled over the years, helped along by the water crisis.
“The issue of student’s resistance towards teachers was rife when I arrived here and this was because of the leadership vacuum.
“School management systems and committees were down. The fact that 32 teachers were transferred from the school during the election period was because the school’s leadership by then tolerated political influence.”
Southern Region chief education director, Acronews Maseko was as optimistic as Seitiso regarding Goodhope’s turnaround.
According to Maseko, the troubles at the school have turned a corner and hope has returned.“That hope which seemed lost in that institution is now back,” he said.
“There was a serious issue of lack of both student and teacher discipline at the school, but we have since undergone an operation of restoring things back to order.
“There have been changes in leadership and a code of conduct has been put in place for students.
“We decided to bury the past and focus on starting afresh. We have generally increased support and monitoring of the school and also taken action against indiscipline.
“The village leadership and parents have been critical partakers in this initiative and they have actually complemented our efforts.
“Goodhope Senior was characterised as a school of laissez-faire but both the teachers and the students have now come to their senses to do what’s right. We are hoping for a better institution.”
Maseko said a permanent water supply solution for Goodhope Senior is in the initial stages of planning and construction. Already, a borehole has been surveyed in Mogwalale village near the school which will supply the school directly, Maseko said.
Even students are seeing glimmers of hope, in the new, improved Goodhope Senior. One learner, who spoke to the Mmegi news crew on condition of anonymity, said the situation was “generally better than before”.
“It’s quite better ever since January. We don’t wake up to empty taps every day. We also have our meals on time,” he said.
His testimony was corroborated by a senior cook who said the kitchen is increasingly able to stick to its menu as water is no longer a challenge. Last September, the kitchen had cut out meals such as pasta, due to the lack of water, while students were almost exclusively surviving on bread.
As the Mmegi news crew leaves the school, the sharp rays of the winter sun as they strike the school’s infrastructure, cut a symbolic image of renewed hope. Students, teachers and authorities will be hoping the water demand, naturally lower in winter, holds out in the approaching summer months.