The First Steel-Framed Building

Volunteer Gerry Pozzani recalls his first days at Swaneng Hill School – excerpt from an unpublished document by Gerard Pozzani.

I don’t have a lot of detailed memories to relate, but we got our class assignments and Lawrence Notha helped me understand the maths curriculum and what we had to teach.  I had to learn £ s d even though the currency used in Botswana was the decimal based South African Rand – crazy!

Somewhere along the line Martin Kibblewhite showed me how to lay foundations for a building and how to put the tin roofing up, but I’m probably one of the few Swaneng people that never learned how to lay bricks.  Martin asked me to make the foundations and put up the steel frame and tin roof of a new building that was to be used for science classes.  The brick walls would be added later.  It was my first work camp.  Not many students were around at the time – I think that it may have been between school years.  But several young South Africans had turned up and they were willing to work.  I have to say that I was a bit uncomfortable about the whole thing.  I had never done anything like this and I had never met South Africans before and I was just not very confident about my abilities.  But we got the job done.  The few students that were around made most of the concrete for the foundations and the South Africans were very enthusiastic when it came to erecting the frame and putting the roof on it.  When we were making the foundations for the metal frame we had a bit of a problem.  The footing for the pillar at the lowest point on the ground had to be built up quite high.  The concrete was mixed and poured, mixed and poured, mixed and poured – it seemed like we would never fill it to the top.  So I went to Martin and told him about this situation and asked if I could put a very large stone that was near to hand into the footing.  He and I went down to the site and he surveyed the situation and looked at the stone that I had suggested we use.  After a moment or two he said ‘OK – let’s do it.’  So we lifted the stone between us and dropped it in.  We quickly filled it with concrete after that and nothing else was said about it.  I think that the building is still standing today, so all’s well that ends well!

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