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The collapse of Moeng College

RYDER GABATHUSE KOKETSO KGOBOGE
Moeng old dormitories brought down by the storm last year PIC: MOENG COLLEGE ALUMNIA
It’s easy to decipher that negative forces have for a long time been conniving against one of the country’s oldest schools, Moeng College pulling it down to the lowest rung. The well-documented collapse of Moeng College is a true story of a giant that has fallen. Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE and Correspondent KOKETSO KGOBOGE visited Moeng College recently and they compiled this story.

MOENG COLLEGE: The 2019 Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Examinations (BGCSE) tell the story of a collapsed giant that Moeng College was known for in the years of yore: In the academic circles.

Out of 34 senior secondary schools, Moeng was lucky to be number 32 after garnering 16.7 percent and has otherwise been on an accelerated downward spiral.

This is a shame to the school, that for a long time consistently across generations held good performance record in both academics and extracurricular. Today, the giant has fallen. This has left the once mighty and dreaded Moeng a true shadow of itself.

New buildings have been sprouting at both the school area and dormitories at the rural-based Moeng College. However, some dilapidated structures at both the dormitories and classroom areas do not help the course.

Like a human being, Moeng College bears the traits of old age: The school’s infrastructure especially the dormitories are unkempt and seriously in a bad shape giving the government-owned school a bad image.

As if it’s not enough, a once perennial stream than separated the classrooms from the dormitories supporting many lives along its course, has died a natural death. This is another indication of the centre that cannot hold at Moeng College. Things have indeed fallen apart.

Surrounded by the Tswapong hills and built on a valley the school opened its doors for students in 1949 and has for many years been known for its serenity away from the hustle and bustle of towns and cities’ lives. It was the then Bangwato regent, Tshekedi Khama who mobilised his tribe to build the school in 1947.

The choice of the school’s location had to do with seeking an environment free from external influences and that was conducive to teaching and learning.

The area, with its perennial valley was good for supporting a diverse and rich curriculum catering for academic pursuits and farming activities.

Moeng College was designed to be a self-supporting institution where students would learn theory in the classroom while being exposed to the world of education with production outside the classroom.

The school was opened during the colonial period when opportunities for secondary school were limited. The college brought education right on the doorstep of tribes like Batswapong living in the vicinity of the college.

It enhanced access to secondary education as it saved the communities the trouble and expenses of sending their children for education to distant and unfamiliar places. The set up cheapened the costs of education for local communities.

Since 2012, it has been apparent that Moeng College was on an uphill battle academically as the school’s performance started declining sharply till to date.

Late last year realising that Moeng College’s troubles were far from over, about 53 teaching staff of the total 89, signed a petition of ‘no confidence’ in the school head, Abram Thapedi and his administration.

“Moeng College is an archival antic, that would do well as a museum. Teachers’ houses, classrooms, laboratories, students dormitories, halls, offices and the general infrastructural state of affairs, leaves a lot to be desired,” reads a petition in part.

The protesting teachers cried foul that buildings are dilapidated, tattered and inhabitable to many with the school having become a shantytown that suits the description of a spook town.

“Maintenance has not been done in years…buildings have scary cracks, ceilings are coming down, plumbing problems are too common to describe, archaic materials have been used and are now failing,” further reads the petition.

Teachers were concerned that there was uncontrolled animal movement more so that the perimeter fence has collapsed, leaving the school area a ‘massive kraal’ for stray animals.

Passing the motion of no confidence on the school head the teachers said: “ The person of the school head at Moeng College has been seen as wanting in as far as the administration of the school is concerned. Not withstanding that the school’s performance has been at the lowest ebb, the school head has dismally failed to hatch out strategies in his modus operandi to pull out the school from its doldrums and impending doom.”

The teachers have also decried water crisis at their school, which they claimed went days on end without resolution, forcing them to drive to the neighbouring villages in search of water.

In their view teachers held a strong position that the school head had “abdicated his responsibilities, which has since ushered in a dispensation for anarchy amongst others.”

Teachers blamed overstay as one factor that has been contributing to the school’s poor performance. “Once people stay at a place for more than the prescriptions of the statutes, they develop a culture they will in turn sustain and protect. It later becomes difficult for

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these people to accept change,” teachers complained indicating that some of them have been in one place between 10 and 20 years.

In addition, it was explained that: “ Particularly, our poor performance can be explained to emanate from this (over staying) besides that the geographical seclusion of the area makes it even the more unattractive such that being at Moeng College is no different from solitary confinement and a sentence to doom.”

There has also been a hue and cry from the teachers that for the past seven years, none of them were considered for promotions, which is another factor that is discouraging them so much.

In an interview recently, Moeng school head Thapedi moaned that the environment was not conducive and was a major contributing factor to poor productivity.

He conceded that resources were a problem and the school was worn out.

He confirmed that teachers petitioned the school management due to the state of the college and lack of promotions amongst others.

The college, he said is overwhelmed by accommodation shortage for staff that has resulted in a lot of sharing, which has its own inconveniences.

“We are at an isolated place where staff can’t rent outside the school,” he declared as a matter of fact. Since some members have families, sharing is cumbersome. Some of the houses at the school are rejected because they are built with asbestos that was deemed a health hazard.

Over and above accommodation problems, there are many infrastructure defects around the school facility in general.

The piping system is obsolete. Classrooms are in a bad state; ceilings, floors, chalkboards, windows and doors are broken, acknowledged the outgoing school head.

There is, in addition, a problem of Internet connectivity that compounds research and preparation challenges for staff and students.

The current boarding facility accommodates 852 students with 491 Form Four students and 461 Form Fives.

The college admits students from rural areas of Ratholo, Lerala, Sefhare, Goo-Tau, Lecheng and then others from different areas around the country. The students are collected from Palapye and transported by buses to the college.

The school head said they might be rated below other schools in terms of results, “but there has been value addition in the past five years, amidst the massive challenges we were facing. “

“People don’t appreciate that and choose to criticise without thorough analysis of the input compared to the output. We are actually working very hard and adding value to our products,” emphasised Thapedi.

The headmaster said the college was also lucky to have caring and active alumni that were contributing in improving the standards and the output at their former school

“Our alumni contribute massively to the college, both in improving infrastructure and motivating the students by ways of rewarding them and motivational talks from various professions.”

The girls’ hostels are over capacitated. The problem is caused by a failed project that has turned into a white elephant since it was constructed. The hostel block, which was built to house 144 students, was condemned with cracks that rendered it inhabitable,” explained Thapedi who end of this month will retire from the civil service.  He said the boys’ hostels are old but adequate for the number of the students that occupy them. However, he said the problem aggravating their old status is that, “they (boys’ hostels) are vandalised by the users and require constant maintenance that at times cause the disturbance to the students.”

He added: “The students are not entirely rebellious. Well, there are some students that are problematic like at any other set up where there are a lot of children living under the same roof. Otherwise, they are controllable.” With extracurricular activities Moeng College continue performing extremely well, and is among the best, despite challenges of sporting facilities. The school’s facilities were constructed in those medieval days and haven’t been refurbished for a long time.  Thapedi was elated that the fortunes of the 70-year-old school would change in the near future as it is scheduled for a multi-million Pula revamp.  “The school is going to be renovated at a cost of over P100 million. The tendering process has been opened, and expectations are that construction would start this year,” he beamed optimism. The sad reality is that Thapedi may not even see the commencement of the envisaged massive project as he is expected to exit the school administration on retirement end of this month. Equally, his deputy, Victor Macheng has been transferred out to Moepong Junior Secondary School in Selebi-Phikwe. A million Pula question now is whether the impending new administration will help change the fortunes of Moeng College and revive the reputation it held for many years.



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