Having spent the majority of his schooling life boarding in hostels far away from his family, Kebadiretse Ntsogotho knows only too well the pain of not having a school in one’s village.
Now at the helm of the North West District Council, Chairman Ntsogotho has put education among his top priorities in the District Development Plan.
In this week’s interview with FRANCINAH BAAITSE-MMANA, the 40-year-old, who was chosen for the top post back in December, details his experiences and outlines his plans for the future.
Q. Congratulations on your new post. How does it feel?
A. It is an achievement for me because there has never been a Council Chairman in this district from Khwai before.
Likewise, there has never been a Mosarwa [tribe] Council Chairman in the district before.
I am the first Mosarwa to hold this fort and I do appreciate the respect and recognition extended to me by Khwai residents and the entire council.
Q. What drives your zeal to push for education development, especially the construction of satellite schools in settlements across the district?
A. I grew up in Khwai but I spent most of my school days away from home.
I was in boarding schools because there is no school in Khwai, even to date.
I was separated from my parents, siblings and relatives most of the time and I do not wish for the coming generation to go through that.
Q. How did you cope with life in the hostels?
A. It was challenging! At the time there were no mobile phones and I only got to talk to my family on school holidays.
I missed them a lot and again there was a lot of bullying that I had to deal with from other pupils.
I had to mature fast and learn to do things on my own, wash my clothes and clean up without assistance.
The best medicine for bullying was to ignore those who tormented us because we were very far from home and with nobody to take our side in times of trouble.
We stayed the entire term in school without meeting our parents or relatives so we had to learn to survive on our own.
That must have been hard!
The system is very bad and since we have gone through it we know how hard it is.
You get homesick, you miss your siblings, parents, homemade food, the village life.
That is the reason I am pushing very hard to ensure that satellite schools are put up in all settlements which have no schools as a matter of urgency.
All children deserve to stay with their parents and I will be happy to see all Khwai children back from hostels and schooling in their village.
It will make me happy to see Boro children no longer having to walk the 18 kilometres distance to school.
There are many settlements in our District which are in dire need for schools.
Ditshiping, for instance, has no school, but a pre-school was donated to the settlement.
The plan is to develop that pre-school to include lower primary classes so that at least Standard 1 and 2 pupils can study in their village.
Q. In your experience, how does hostel life affect academics?
A. It affects academics because when you are in class and missing home, you cannot concentrate.
It torments children emotionally as well. Besides, every child needs parental guidance unlike where children are taken to hostels where there is a mix of culture and practices from different backgrounds.
For example, some children are allowed to engage in love relationships and sex at an early age whilst some are taught that doing so is bad.
This mix at a tender age creates confusion and results in bad behaviour from some children.
Q. Did you endure some bad experience at the hostels?
A. I started school in hostels and we were bullied a lot, especially by day-schoolers.
As they stayed closer to their families and homes we could not retaliate for fear of being counter-attacked by their older siblings and parents!
Q. Back to the present – what are your immediate plans for the district’s children?
A. There is a school in Khwai and we are hopeful it will open very soon once the teacher’s quarters are completed.
We will introduce Standard 1 and 2 classes in Ditshiping and Boro.
There is a school in Jao that has to be opened as a matter of urgency.
Q. Admirable projects but how do you intend to achieve all this?
A. Through the Constituency Development Fund we will address some of these issues.
We are working together with Members of Parliament to ensure this happens.
Government is launching a knowledge-based economy and it is important that this is done right from grassroots level by ensuring that it (government) educates all generations.
The people have to be educated in every step and level of education so that as the government preaches a ‘knowledge-base’, it has made the rightful commitment and investment in that regard and carries everyone along.
Q. Growing up, what did you dream of becoming? Was it always your ambition to venture into politics?
A. No, I wanted to be a medical doctor, that was my dream.
But as we know dreams change with time.
And again, because of educational challenges, options change.
Education needs to be nurtured from early ages.
Of course I have gone as far as university level, though it was long distance, but I have gone that far.
What I want to point out here is I may have achieved more had I been staying with my parents during my school days.
Q. As a Khwai native, which is one of the district’s more remote areas, your rise to Council Chairman is quite the achievement. Is the village treating you as a celebrity?
A. Of course they are proud of my achievement, more especially that we are from a so-called ‘minority tribe’.
But when I am in the village there is nothing special about me – I am a child just like any other child in the village.
Nothing has changed. We interact the same way we were before I was elected to the council.
Q. What other plans do you have for the district?
A. A lot. I wish to see Maun become the picture of a real resort town.
Maun needs a serious facelift.
Look at the likes of Durban, Windhoek, Cape Town and others, their planning was well thought out.
We can, for instance, improve the main street which runs from the bus rank through the Old Mall past the New Mall.
I want to see Maun have at least one big fruit and vegetable market, vendors selling in well-planned-for structures.
We need clean streets. Also, the roads in the district are very poor.
Like I said, a lot needs to be done!
Q. Is this the reason you refused to have a Chairman’s Ball in December?
A. The Chairman’s Ball is an annual event where we meet as councillors, eat and drink. But ultimately, in the end it does not benefit our constituents in any way.
It has no impact on the lives of the people.
There is a lot that can be done with that budget. For instance, we have a new school in Sexaxa which is in need of teaching materials.
The money can be channelled to that immediate need or alternatively help push the two-teacher school project in Boro.
Q. So did the money saved from cancelling the Ball contribute to some of the developments you have just stated?
A. We used the money to sponsor a workshop for councillors.
The workshop was to teach councillors on the council policies among others social services and by-laws.
This was because we have reaslied that a lot of time is wasted when some councillors debate on matters they lack understanding on.
We are now looking forward to a house full of informed councillors who will table motions to challenge policies which they feel need to be changed, amended or cancelled.
This was done within the Chairman’s Ball budget.
Q. Moving away from the council, are you a family man? Do you have children?
A. Yes I am married to Grace Ntsogotho and we have no children.
Q. How do you spend your free time?
A. My schedule is very busy. Besides being a Council Chairman, I do run my small businesses on the side.
So when I am not doing council work I am catching up on the businesses.
Q. And finally, Thank God It’s Friday – what are you up to this weekend?
A. I am going camping with some of my friends, councillors.