The shantytown that is Goodhope SSS

Entrance of Goodhope Senior Secondary School
The country’s largest Senior Secondary School in Goodhope has never enjoyed peace since it first opened gates nine years ago. Mmegi Correspondent TUMELO MOUWANE reports on what seems like a life in a slum

Goodhope Senior Secondary School is the largest public school in the country. Officially opened in 2008, it boasts a student population of 2,000 from different parts of the country. The Barolong pride has however, evolved into a lawless organisation, which is often in the news for bad reasons.

The situation has persisted after the 2011 ‘mother of all’ strikes. Insiders suggest that violent protests, which are continuously erupting at the institution, are too complex for the authorities to handle. There is an unsubstantiated believe that some unhappy teachers are behind the chaos. Other social ills in the school are the use and sale of drugs, alcohol consumption and student intimate relationships that are reflected in poor academic performance year after year.   One of the students, who spoke to Mmegi anonymously, said they are not happy with the way some things are run at the school.  He said their “anger” emanates from the lack of engagement from authorities and that their grievances are never addressed.

“This school seriously needs to be closed, it is not conducive at all. The ablutions are unhygienic there is no proper bedding and we are not fed well,” the student said.  On the evening of Sunday September 17, a shocking incident left authorities with gapping mouths when students boycotted evening studies and threatened the schoolhead, Terrence Seitiso when he tried to intervene.

“I received a call that one of the rooms at the girls block had been broken into. I went to the girls’ hostels alongside security guards where we found two boys and two girls who had locked themselves in a dormitory,” Seitiso said.It was not long before an angry mob of students pelted him with stones. “The students, highly intoxicated from alcohol consumption, were also engaging in sexual activities. We decided to handcuff them but they managed to escape whilst handcuffed, but we eventually re-arrested them and handed them to the police. I was personally attacked with stones by a group of students demanding us to stay away from the hostels. One of our guards sustained head injuries and is currently in hospital. We called the police but we concluded that no action should be taken on Sunday.”

He said that the situation got out of control the following day when students appeared at the assembly donning unusual hairstyles and it was clear that a strike might erupt again. “We decided to temporarily close the school,” he said. Seitiso said the incidents were never expected especially that examinations are around the corner. “The protests left us shocked. Exams are around the corner, they will be beginning on October 2.  Sexual activities are rife amongst students in Goodhope senior and it really concerns us as the management. We have 50 cases of students who engaged in sexual activities at the hostel;12 boys were caught cutting down the demarcation fence between girls and boys hostels. Seven students were caught breaking into the school kitchen and stealing bread and it really worries us to see such behaviour escalating,” he said. Equally concerned are the village authorities. Acting Barolong paramont chief, Botiki Motshegare said drugs are a cause for concern in the institution and sent a stern warning to all those involved.

“As elders in the community we are just parents by law, as biological parents should take the responsibility of their children. I must say there are some parents here who played a role in the recent strike. The kids buy drugs from such parents who don’t care about the future of our children. Indiscipline is high in the school, there is complete lawlessness. Parents should be advised that there are set

rules and laws, and we will take care of any unwanted behaviour. If children lack discipline, it is not the burden of the school but the burden of the parents,” Motshegare said. Motshegare said they are afraid that the students will one day burn the school and erase the pride of Barolong from the village landscape. Goodhope Police Station commander Mogomotsi Kwapa attributed indiscipline to drug abuse at the institution, adding that the police are empowered to use all necessary measures within the law to restore order.

“On the day the awkward behaviour began, I almost took a decision to use force but as a parent I also took into consideration the implications such as a stampede, and student injuries. If there are protests or any illegal gathering police have the legal right to disperse such crowd with an amount of force, which we will deem appropriate and students are advised that in the future there will be no mercy,” he warned. “We have a problem where parents don’t visit their children at the school.

They only see them on month ends, but I advise that they should pay surprise visits to their children. When I was transferred to Goodhope Police Station in 2014, the situation at the school was better, but it has gone out of control.” He said that his office is currently handling many cases of marijuana possession in which Goodhope students are implicated.  “Students sell drugs within the school whilst there are homesteads which sell marijuana to students and such parents should be advised that the wrath of the law will be at their doorstep soon. Students should know that if you are charged and fingerprinted, it stays with you for life. We are mandated to protect lives and government property inclusive and we will not hesitate,” Kwapa said. 

Regional education director Acronews Maseko resolved to readmit the students into the boarding facility and instructed the authorities to reopen the school.  Maseko said both students should appreciate the privilege, which the government has given them by providing free education.  “The State President called me last week to ask how the school was doing. I told him that everything was going well only to be surprised by the events which took place on Sunday. Batswana should appreciate the efforts by their government to build such infrastructure for their children, students do not pay school fees but we just don’t appreciate,” he said.

He said that as the largest school in the country and most resourced, Goodhope should lead by example. Maseko cautioned that the law empowers schoolheads to expel all students from the boarding facility in order to protect it.

“But on behalf of the parents I apologise for the behaviour of their children and those students who were engaged in sexual activities in the school will be accordingly dealt with.

The law should take its course and we want to send this as a warning to all parents who might in one way or the other be involved in what is going on in this school that there will be no mercy anymore.”  The officer said they are going to beef up security in the institution for the next two months. Barolong paramont chief and area MP Kgosi Lotlaamoreng advised guardians to take full responsibility of their childrens’ behaivour in order to protect the future of their children.  “We could be here for a prize giving ceremony but we are now here for something very sad. I want to urge parents to take action whilst there is still time and we are hopeful that the behaviour won’t persist,” he said.




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