Two-teacher school opens in settlement
Seven-year-old Innocent Monnawatsheko sighs with relief as he recalls the daily journey he and his schoolmates from Sexaxa settlement had to endure to get to school in 2019.
Now that Africa Foundation, a non-profit organisation from South Africa, has built them a school in their area, the little boy and his friends no longer have to walk the 10km round trip to Maun-based Matlapana Primary School.
That part of his life is over, at least for now.
“I am happy now that I can study without dozing off in class while the teacher is talking. The walking made me tired!” exclaims Monnawatsheko, shaking his head vigorously at the memory.
The youngster, who wants to be a police officer when he grows up, speaks with admirable maturity as he reflects on the hardships of last year.
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“I did not enjoy waking up too early and walking in the sun. But I wanted to get educated so that I can help my parents build a nice house when I find a job after finishing school. So I had no choice but to go to school.”
Now doing Standard 2 at the newly opened satellite school, Monnawatsheko is enjoying lessons.
“I used to get very hungry on the way to and from school. But here it’s okay, it is closer to home.”
The two-classroom block was opened last week in Sexaxa for Standard 1 and 2 pupils, thanks to Africa Foundation’s donation of almost US$90,000 (P900, 000).
Founded in 1992, the foundation is an independent, tax-exempt organisation whose purpose is to uplift, up-skill and empower identified rural communities near core conservation areas
North West District Council chairman, Kebadiretse Ntsogotho, is hopeful the donor will construct more classrooms to absorb older students and make it a fully-fledged primary school in the near future.
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“It is a good gesture and as the council we are grateful for the generous donation. It means a lot for the educational development of Sexaxa children as the long walk was strenuous on the pupils, especially the younger ones,” noted Ntsogotho.
For many years children from Sexaxa travelled to Maun for school. Ntsogotho is adamant this is the cause of the high rate of failure in the area.
A 34-year-old resident of the small settlement, Ikanyeng Abueng vividly remembers how her education suffered because of the long walk to school.
“I did all my primary, junior and senior secondary schooling in Maun. I walked from Sexaxa every day and only rested during school holidays. I did not enjoy it at all because most of the time I left home without breakfast.”
Abueng has welcomed the new school with open arms, especially as it has provided her with work as a cleaner.
“I was lucky to get a job here. After a long time I have a salary and count myself among the employed,” she declared proudly.
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Abueng’s 12-year-old daughter is doing Standard 7 and stays in Chanoga with her father. Mother and daughter have had to be separated to save the young girl the gruelling walk to Matlapana Primary School.
“She started school in Chanoga because I did not want her to endure the same ordeal as me. I wanted her to enjoy school,” explained Abueng.
Yet another parent, Lesego Kebonyewetsho expresses delight at the opening of the school.
“The distance was hard for these children. Even a heart of a strongman went out to these children, especially in winter and rainy days.”
The area councillor, Kobamelo Baikgodisi believes the new school will help reduce the teacher/student ratio at Matlapana Primary, whose intake stands at 1, 000 pupils instead of the recommended 600.
“The classes are full and this means the teaching is compromised as well. With the construction of more classrooms, the current 1:43 teacher-to-student ratio is expected to drop,” Baikgodisi predicted hopefully.
However, with the Sexaxa school currently only going up to Standard 2, Monnawatsheko and his friends could be on the road again next year.
For now though, that is the last thing on their young minds.