Notes from the field: Kgari Sechele II Senior Secondary

After a week spent in the UB library, it was exciting to visit another school this week. I love exploring areas outside of Gaborone and thankfully, this week I was in Molepolole. Molepolole is the largest village in the country. At nearly 68,000 people, it sits northwest of Gaborone and is home to one of the eight major ethnic groups, the BaKwena.

Now, if you got lost somewhere between village and 68,000 people, I get it. I thought the same thing—how can a village be 68,000 deep? My Social Studies advisor, Mr. Kefaletse explained that people don’t like to think of it as a town. It loses the power a village holds. The “village” concept is something that continuously comes up during my time here. In fact, a teacher told me today that his goal was to turn the whole world into a global village. While this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this concept, I still love it.  And now, after having spent nearly two months in Botswana, I get it. I, too, hope my students understand that they are a part of a global village and with that comes global responsibilities. Sometimes, it’s OK to think beyond yourself.

With that being said, I spent my days at the Kgari Sechele II Senior Secondary School this week. Named after a BaKwena kgosi (chief), the set-up reminded me a lot of Molefi. It’s a large school and is also home to another Fulbrighter! Mrs. Christinah Hambira, is a guidance counselor/SeTswana teacher/person extraordinaire who came to the US as a Fulbright teacher in 2015. She immediately took me under her wing and I spent some wonderful time discussing everything educational with her. Even in my short time at Kgari Sechelle II, I could tell she was a special person. We’re going to be working on a professional development opportunity later during my time and I’m pumped. I’m also pumped because she introduced me to fat cakes. Deep-fried bread? Ummm, yeah, no duh I’m pumped. Needing to go to the gym and fast for a week after eating three fat cakes in 15 minutes? Not pumped.

Aside from fat cakes, I was also able to observe new classes and students. The Form 4 students are back! Which means I sat in on a Southern Africa history course (albeit, an introduction day) and a Development Studies course. I also attended a Modern History course.  As mentioned previously, all of the social sciences are broken down by subject and each have their own department. Development studies reminded me of Global Issues (people from Moose Lake get me) but is also closely linked to Economics. As I attached myself to Christinah, I also learned a lot about the Guidance/Counseling sector of schools in Botswana. At this moment, I would just like to show love to counselors around the world—y’all are some amazing people being able to handle all that you do! Now, to the nitty gritty, here are a few of my notes/questions/observations from Kgari Sechele II:

-Again, many references to the exams and emphasis on rote memorization. History teachers are seriously concerned about the subject being dropped from the curriculum as students continue to bail because it is “too hard and too much writing/reading”.
-Teachers in Botswana are incredibly gifted in their subject areas. They are fountains of information and I would love to remember even a slice of what they do!
-Class sizes were some of the largest I have viewed, almost 38 in each class.
-This was also the first school that I saw Smartboards. I believe there are 2 smartboards in the school, a few classrooms with wifi and Christinah won a grant in order to buy a set of laptops.
-Most teachers don’t really want to use the technology because it’s a lot of work. It doesn’t matter what part of the world you’re in, many people possess this belief. This was extremely interesting to me as I love educational technology. I love technology period (well, the times in which it works). I have thought often of the technology we use in our classroom and I feel incredibly blessed. Yes, it’s work but the benefits surely outweigh the negatives.
-Students at Kgari Sechele II were sooooooo excited to see me. I mean, students have been excited about my presence before, but not like this. I had many come up to me, engage in conversation, do a happy dance and wave. I even had a girl touch my skin and then stroke my hair. Teachers couldn’t believe this as most assumed the village students would be very shy compared to those living closer to Gaborone.
-There is a lot of emphasis on religion/Christianity in Botswana. Botswana is a very Christian country and it’s often brought up and definitely discussed/referenced in education. Students also start every assembly with a prayer.
-Teachers spent very little on introductions (first day of school for Form 4s) and got right to the point–what is history? I know of many teachers who do this but I see so much value in community-building. I truly believe in building the character of a student and not just building on their academics.
-How can we save history around the world? How do we make it more engaging for students so they understand it’s importance? We can’t just tell them it’s important, they need to discover that it is.
-Does learning have to be quiet? What is the best way to learn? What does my teaching encourage?
-Teachers at Kgari Sechele II mentioned to me many times that they simply lack the resources–not enough paper, no chalkboard, no running water in many bathrooms, etc. How do we go back to the basics? Do we need all the gadgets to provide quality education in the USA?
-The Development Studies class broke down what DVS was as well as touched on colonialism’s effect on rural development. I learned so much!
-I seriously want to transport the schedule of Botswana’s schools to the USA. Ahhh, I can’t get enough of it.

I had a short week as one of my favorite families is coming to visit me tomorrow!!!! Cheers to the good times and I’ll make sure to post photos soon.

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