Remembering Mma Sech: The No-Nonsense Matron

Grace Kgari was hailed as the Florence Nightingale of Botswana
Grace Kgari was hailed as the Florence Nightingale of Botswana

It is with great pleasure that a person like Mrs Kgari should be remembered, respected, honoured and her wonderful life that she so dearly lived celebrated. What a gentle – lady she was, Veteran of Peace.

Who is this Grace Kgari or Mma – Sech as her children affectionately called her, and known to me as “G.B”.

Grace Kgari was born of the Motshepha family in Sikwane village, Kgatleng District. She was married to Rre Bakwena Kgosidintsi Kgari of Mokwena ward in Serowe. As many may not be aware, Rre Bakwena Kgari originated from Molepolole of the Bakwena chieftaincy. Grace Kgari “Mma – Sech” was a nurse by profession, one of the Nursing heroines in Botswana, a true disciple of Florence Nightingale by deeds and soul.

To Grace, nursing was not a job for money, she took up nursing as a Christian call to serve the nation and save lives of the people, she had love for the profession, devoted and dedicated to it. Grace trained as a nurse in South Africa during the Apartheid, Discrimination and Racist laws – all these laws made Grace to develop a thick skin, firm back bone, tough and brave in her nature.

Grace was very instrumental, influential and played a very important role in the development of Health Services in general, starting her career from the then Bechuanaland Protectorate to the present Botswana.

She could not turn a blind eye when things were not done properly, she would rather raffle her feathers to get them right and correct, she did her work without fear or favour.

She participated greatly in the evolution of nursing in this country, involved in both administration at office level and Nursing Education in Schools of Nursing starting from the – Bechuanaland Nursing Council, High Commission Territory Nursing Council and to the present system. “Hers was a long walk to develop nursing”. Grace Kgari, like Martin Luther King (Junior) had a dream; her dream was to see nursing in Botswana pitched high to the standard and level of developed countries. It was difficult to separate her from this profession – to her it was like tongue and saliva. Her capability, honesty and firmness earned her a place in the higher posts. Grace was the first Motswana nurse to assume the positions of Nursing Sister, Senior Nursing Sister, Matron and Regional Matron supervising the whole Northern region.

Grace Kgari was not only a nurse, she was a community leader, a humanitarian activist, who had great sympathy for the needy, a mother to the helpless and hopeless. In 1973, she started a humanitarian project, similar to the present SHAA, a brainchild of Grace Kgari. She negotiated with a certain South African white man who had a building contractor in Serowe (Mr Van Schalkwyk) to allow the hospital workers to engage him to build houses and pay on monthly installments – The first SHAA of its kind, it was called “Montsamaisa Bosigo”. The project was successful and everybody had a roof on top of her head that was Grace’s initiative to the workers and to the country. At home in Mokwena ward (Kgotla) Grace mothered all the Bakwena with great love, and she was highly respected by all in that Kgotla and in Serowe.

Mrs Kgari was a humble person, peace loving, hard working and full of energy, firm in decision-making, a mother to all her Subordinates – But A No-Nonsense Matron “who walks her talk”.

I have known Grace, as far back in the 50s during the Bechuanaland era, she was a staff nurse at Maun General Hospital, I was an ordinary student midwife in Maun Maternity Centre. I am pleased to mention that I was privileged to assist during the delivery of her first-born Son Sechele in Maun Maternity Centre.

In recognition of her contribution to the Ministry of Health, Nursing Service and the community at large, the Nurses Association of Botswana honoured her by naming the nurses hostel “Grace Kgari”.

This was not enough in view of her continued community service; the Central District Council honoured her by naming a Primary School in Serowe “Grace Kgari”. Grace Kgari was a staunch member of the UCCSA church, a member of the Botswana Nurses Association and BCW, Girl Guides and many other charitable organisations. Grace Kgari together with Mrs Keitathe Keatimilwe and Kehalotse Nthebolang were the brains behind the idea of building UCCSA Church Hall in Serowe.  Unfortunately they passed on before their dreams came true and before they could see their dream baby born, crawl and walk as the hall is now on its feet. However, their spirit lives on. May their soul rest in peace. The best tribute one can pay to Mrs Kgari is to walk in her footsteps, and respect the professional principles she subscribed to throughout her life. Grace deserves the honour praise and respect for her valuable contribution to this country.

Grace and Bakwena (Mr and Mrs Kgari) are blessed with three children; three boys and two girls with God’s grace they are all responsible men and women of their families.

We will remember you Grace

l When we are weary and in need of strength,

we will remember you.

l When we are lost and sick at heart, we will remember you.

l When we have decisions that are difficult to make, we will remember you.

l When we have joy that we wish to share with you, we will remember you.

l When we have achievements that are based on yours, we will remember you.

May your Soul Rest in Peace.


Edna Dikeledi Monyena

Retired Nurse

Editor's Comment
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