Students To Make History- From Tom Holzinger’s article in Mmegi 15 November 2013
” How to choose students? Because time was too short for interviews, Pat urged the newly formed School Committee to accept the first 30 qualified applicants. Some members wanted to reject two unmarried mothers. “I took a strong stand against their position,” Pat says, “on the grounds that these girls needed education even more than others, to be forearmed against impregnation in future, and to be able better to care for their children.”
Political and ethnic background was another hot potato. Patrick wanted to assist the children of refugees from South Africa. (Later, major donors were to request this too). It was an issue that had to be cleared with the colonial authorities in Mafeking. Some of the South African-born children were not refugees but had parents from Bechuanaland. At the end of their primary they wanted an alternative to Bantu Education and went to Bechuanaland to look for it. Thus the student group was a mixed one from the start.
On the first day of term, 11 February 1963, almost all the admitted students appeared. Thanks to Joseph Mosedame, most of their names have been recalled: Botho, Caesar, Cynthia, Lekgowa Hastings Dabutha, Flex Keoometse Disejane, Cathrine Gaogakege Gobopang, Kebaagetse, Desire Kuhlmann, Gregory Mapine, Keabilwe Mokoka, Edward Moletsame, Joseph Mosedame, Mary Mosweunyane, Geoffrey Nfila, Omponye, Empson Pheko, Otsogile Pitso, Rebecca Rakgole, Agnes Ratshosa, Majebosigo Seeletso, Christopher Tshipa, “Typewriter”, and quite likely Gladys Ramotlwa, Gotlhe Kgamane, and John Moatlhodi, though these last may have started in the following year.
One of the older students, Typewriter, soon withdrew to work or study elsewhere. Another, Otsogile Pitso, was promptly elected Head Boy. “Oates”, as he was popularly known, was to play a crucial role at Swaneng for over ten years. One student withdrew because of pregnancy. Pat hoped that she would return, but he was opposed by the Committee and the local Education Officer. She did not come back.
All subjects were divided between the original three teachers: Pat, Liz, and Mokhutshwane Sekgoma. Mokhutshwane, the son of a prominent elder, had just received his Cambridge Certificate. The subjects included English Language and Literature, History and Geography, Mathematics and Science, and Setswana. Liz was already pregnant, so she and Pat both decided to quit smoking. As always, a fearless approach.
But was the classroom ready? Some say yes, whereas Joseph Mosedame states that the first week or two were spent under a tree. All agree that there were no desks, just makeshift planks and boards on top of bricks. “The day that the desks arrived from Bulawayo,” Mosedame says, “was one of our most exciting days. We celebrated like little kids. Remember that we were just a small group. We were really a family that year. We did everything together, we walked to school together from town.” Most of the 28 lived near the centre of Serowe, a distance of some six kilometres, and no one had vehicle transport.
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