Boitumelo Maswabi
SMILE OF SUCCESS: Nandi is proud of her exceptional achievement

‘Nerdy Nandi’ is BW’s top Setswana student

For people born in the digital age, Generation Z aka Digital Natives and the succeeding Generation Alpha, speaking, let alone learning the mother tongue, can be frustrating.

As Setswana continues to play second fiddle to the English language, especially in both private schools and well-to-do urban homes, it comes as a surprise to learn that an English Medium School student has been named the best in Setswana language nationwide!

Voice Woman is thrilled, and a little awe-struck, to talk to the self-proclaimed ‘nerdy’ Nandi Ame Tlhotlhologolo, who obtained distinctions in 7 out of 8 subjects (4A*s, 3As and 1B), to earn 48 points in her 2023 IGCSE at Legae Academy.

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In this interview, the articulate top achiever reflects on her outstanding achievements, which she humbly attributes to her teachers.

A firm believer in hard work, the studious Nandi began scoring high marks at Hillcrest International School in Gaborone from 2012 to 2019.

“I constantly strive to do my best and am dedicated to my studies, remaining a top Setswana Language student throughout my schooling. Upon completion of Form 2, I was promoted to Form 4, skipping Form 3, hence I was at Legae Academy for only four years,” the 17-year-old gushes proudly.

Moving up a grade was certainly a boon for her parents, as my alma mater costs an arm and a leg – currently P82 950 per annum, according to their website!

“Form 4 was a breeze. However, my final year had its ups and downs. I became nervous but my teachers were diligent, especially my Setswana teacher, Mma Balebetse, who kept me grounded and impressed on us the value of discipline. I think she deserves a raise,” Nandi chuckles, and adds LA is the best centre of learning in the country, noting that 87 IGCSE learners out of 150 in her year earned the maximum 48 points, according to the University of Botswana (UB) point scale system.

Despite the impressive results, Mathematics nearly spoiled her party.

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LEADING THE SCHOOL IN PRAYER: Nandi Tlhotlhologolo during assembly

“That’s the only subject that gave me sleepless nights. However, with hard work, and a study group of brilliant students, I managed to do well in it, too.”

Having set herself incredibly high standards, the ultra-ambitious teen, who admits to having a compulsive drive to be perfect, says she was slightly disappointed and had been hoping for more.

“I’m a perfectionist, I was aiming for 8A*s. I am pleased with myself nonetheless because I enjoyed all subjects. my favourite teachers were Mrs Nelly Balebetse (Setswana), Mrs Kambai (Biology), Mrs Hangandu (English First Language), Mrs Mutefa (English Literature) and Mr Mavizenge (Business Studies),” explains Nandi, adding her parents shed tears of joy upon receiving the good news since she’s the first in the family to get a distinction, an inspiration for her equally bookish little sister, Nanile.

Little did the Tlhotlhologolos know more good news was on the horizon.

“On a beautiful Wednesday morning last week, a former schoolmate sent me a message informing me that I’m the country’s Top Setswana Student in the country. I called the principal right away and he confirmed it. I’m expecting the certificate in the next week!”

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The goal-oriented Nandi now looks forward to studying International Finance and Banking at Botswana Accountancy College (BAC) although she has also been busy trying her luck with overseas institutions.

“I have the offer letter from BAC so I’m awaiting DTEF sponsorship. I chose International Finance and Banking because businesses are the lifeblood of any economy worldwide. I don’t see myself working a 9 to 5 all my life, I will venture into entrepreneurship to create employment and make a mark in my country. However, I believe studying abroad would broaden my horizons; I hope to get a full scholarship to study at the prestigious University of Cambridge or Harvard.

“Unfortunately, I do not meet the minimum 6A*s to qualify for government’s top achievers’ sponsorship into elite universities globally. Initially, I aspired to study law, but I can’t picture myself in court, or perhaps I could consider corporate law… but no, international finance it is,” she says, adding South African beauty influencer and CEO of Malaky, Mihlali Ndamase, is her role model.

The bubbly lass advises against a social life for students in their final year.

“Discipline is of paramount importance. Work very hard because IGCSE is tough. Keep up with assignments and do not procrastinate. Join a study group and establish a good relationship with teachers. And, most importantly, put God first; I believe all things are possible with Him,” she asserts.

But doesn’t all work and no play make Nandi a dull girl? Far from it!

“I seldom socialise hence I advise students to focus. When I do socialise, it’s always in my neighbourhood at Setlhoa village where I hang out with my close circle of friends at the park. I am a Christian and enjoy reading my Bible for spiritual growth. In 2022, I had a reawakening that God brought me into this world to fulfil my purpose. After accepting Jesus into my life in 2023, I became the Bible and Prayer Group ambassador at school and would occasionally share the Word of God and pray during assembly. My favourite verse is in the book of Exodus – chapter 14, verse 14: ‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still’,” she concludes.

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TOP ACHIEVER: Nandi Tlhotlhologolo among other top achievers

Yours Truly spoke to Nandi’s teacher, Mrs Balebetse, and this is what she had to say:
“I had the pleasure of teaching Nandi Setswana in Form 4 and Form 5, one of my most reserved and intelligent students; she always paid attention in class. Nandi is a devoted, young Christian, who led the Prayer Club, which I believe also contributed to obtaining such a great achievement – the Top Setswana Student in the country (IGCSE syllabus). This is the second time LA has got this award – one of Mrs Vonkie Mlatti’s students in 2019 achieved the same feat.

As a Setswana teacher, it was a pure pleasure teaching someone like Nandi, who had keen interest in the subject. In this era, Setswana is not taken as seriously as it was back then, so this exceptional achievement brings me great joy.

Nowadays, society sees no use in learning Setswana and children shun the subject, which poses a serious barrier to teaching them.

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I am faced with a challenge of having to motivate and encourage my students to do better daily as they do not take Setswana as seriously as other subjects therefore their marks deteriorate, despite ensuring that they have sufficient material to pass examinations. With Nandi, it was different.

In fact, her achieving such has revived my spirit and has shown me that my efforts are not in vain.

I thank her parents for instilling in her a sense of cultural identity through the importance of learning and knowing Setswana, especially as a Motswana child, and wish other Batswana parents could do the same.

Ka Setswana ga twe, “Tlhako ya morago e gata fa ya pele e gatileng teng”. Parents need to teach children the importance of knowing their mother tongue, communicate to children in Setswana, as they are our future leaders. Kana ga twe, ‘Thaba e e se nang ngwao ke mo ka e latlhegileng’.

Hats off to Nandi, well done!”

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