Makgasa Turns Into White Elephant [analysis]

| January 20, 2015

Against the maroon-dark brown timeworn face brick wall screams colourful paintings inscribed on the inside walls of the seemingly empty Makgasa school located in the shanty streets of Zola, formally known as Old Naledi.

On these walls strikingly expressive paintings of flags of prominent nations and names of nations are flaunted about. And of all the paintings what flamboyantly stood out, attracting much attention to the eye was right at the entrance enjoying its own space were the words, “Education is our Heritage” boldly bordered in a heart kind of shape.

These graphics on the hoary walls of the renowned, ‘Makgasa’- a historical school found in the shanty locality and perhaps the first school to exist post-independence in the early 1970s here sits right in the heart of Zola.

Now a fully developed school, it began with teaching under a tree shade back then and has produced alumni who now hold white colour jobs.

Owing to its rough, humble beginnings and its noble educational purpose, it has enjoyed a fair share of international visits. In 2003 Queen Elizabeth’s daughter Princess Anne set her foot in the school and made donations to the vulnerable and the needy children there. President Lt. General Seretse Khama Ian Khama has also visited the school and donated food hampers to the children.

This school which used to boast of large numbers of pupils currently has only three standard seven pupils enrolled.

The colourful peach painted blocks of classrooms are empty with little or no movement, neither the bubbly and cheerful sounds of pupils associated with schools can be heard.

Further, the ear struggles to pick or locate the sounds of teachers who have few or no students to teach at all. “Botswana Council of Churches (BCC) and some people used to collect street kids from around and send them here but they have since stopped which renders the school under used.

However we have a preschool running and SOS enrolls some of the children here. But as you can see the school is empty,” says teacher Julia Malebeswa. Malebeswa said this is a school that was once abuzz with life and has educated many who have reached university level and some have landed plum jobs. ”

We have assisted many students who were not doing well in their studies and needed second chance to improve their grades from other schools. A student who was failing would be brought here and we will patiently teach them until they pass their exams even though we are not qualified teachers.”

She says there is raising fear that Makgasa which has now modernized and has adopted a new name, Naledi Education Centre is gradually deteriorating into a white elephant since for a long time they have enrolled less numbers. “When the government started permitting standard 7 ‘Ds’ to proceed to form 1, we were left with no one to teach.”

Further she attributes the school’s lower enrolment figures to the Government’sBack to School initiative which she says has literally closed the school. “In the past we could have 40 students sitting for standard 7 Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) but now we have only 3,” she says.

The school which currently survives on donor funding and donations from various companies faces challenges as it is no-longer fully serving its purpose.

The school was founded by the late African Evangelist United Church Reverend Boy Kasai who originated from Zaire and his wife Christina Kasai who originates from South Africa who were both uneducated.

“With the help of the Old Naledi community we built this school from rags, scraps card boxes and left over construction material in the early 70s,” says 81 year old Makgasa founder Christina at her lands near Molepolole.

“We were touched by the needy children who were eating in dustbins and some being killed by food poisoning from consuming rotten foods in bins, they bare footedly roomed the streets and we wanted them to have a better future and we knew that it all begins with education.

We so desperately desired for them to learn how to read and write rather than loiter the streets,” she says.

Christina says the primary aim was to gather street kids and impart education and they produced good results although they were not trained teachers as these students progressed to other levels.

These kids, she says, came in varied ages and when a child is too old they were not registered in a government school therefore Makgasa gave them a second chance and they went on to join government schools.”

However, one would have thought given her work for the community wherein she has also donated some of her churches to ZCC, UCCSA and Methodist in various places Christina would be found glowing and leading a luxurious life but that is not so as she is struggling financially and has since relocated to the lands due to old age.

Nonetheless she says that she has no plans of selling the school and will explore other means of using it.

True to ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s words “Those who educate children well are more to be honoured than they who produce them for these only gave them life, those the art of living well,” Christina who is now leading a poor life, says she lives a happy woman because she has completed her course on earth and has left profound legacy.

Source : BOPA

Source : Botswana Daily News

Category: General

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