Inez Kenosi’s story resembles one whose main character helplessly watched as fate took its course. All her life, she has watched and accepted as her life story unfolded in front of her. Though unplanned, the pieces in her story seem to be fitting perfectly to each other. KEITEBE KGOSIKEBATHO reports
Trained as a social worker, Inez Kenosi has from a young age worked in professions that not only challenged and appealed to her educational background but struck and ignited her motherly instincts to get into action. Mma K, as she is popularly referred to by the staff and students at I am Special Education Society where she is the current coordinator, seems to have found the perfect retirement occupation in this Non-Government Organisation (NGO) whose mandate is to educate students with special needs. The ‘special’ students seem to have accepted the God sent angel with full force too. Mma K knows each one of the 18 students by name and educational strength; the latter being the secret weapon she uses to appease and motivate them. She knows that the computer genius need access to the computers without limit, the singer needs to be left to sing as much as she wants and the one who fancies dance can sometimes do the dancing unexpectedly.
Upon the start of her contract at the Tlokweng-based society, she opened up her office for the students’ unlimited access. “This even surprised the staff here a bit, but it was exactly what I needed,” Kenosi says.
The 62-year-old grandmother and mother of four says her new found family has now become part of her life, and had brought her so much happiness. She in fact says though she had initially decided to pass on the opportunity, a little urge from a friend convinced her to apply and the rest as they say is history. “I fell in love with the kids the very first moment I saw them,” she declares.
She learnt about I am Special Education Society by chance, when she was in fact searching for possible placement for a relative who happens to be in need of the kind of services offered at the institution. The job advert came just after this. “The requirements on the advert were a mirror of me, it was like they were talking about me,” she says. “I think it is God’s calling,” she adds. It’s almost two years since she took up the post at the society, and it is like a life time. I am Special has become part of her life so much that her kids at home know the kids by name, just from the endless stories she tells each time she knocks off and gets home. “They tell me I have also changed and jokingly say I too need special attention from them,” she says with a hearty laugh.
“I am the kind of person that whenever anything excites me, I share it with my family,” she explains.
Kenosi, however, also explains that running an institution such as theirs has its challenges, which includes financial constraints. As a new leader she had to change and improve a few things and this came at a price. She had to stop an old practice where students were made to sleep in classrooms when in out of town overnight school trips. “I had to convince the board that special needs students needed to be made as comfortable as possible, hence the need for hotel accommodation. This then meant we had to mobilise funds for this change, and we have so far managed to do just that,” says Kenosi. Her position, she says, forces her to tap on the skills she learnt back in the days when she was a Community Development Officer. Besides coordinating the operations of the society, she also goes out to sell it to potential partners and stakeholders. Despite the vast experience she has in community development and social work, Kenosi says her position at I am Special Education Society has given her a vivid first-hand experience and close contact with the results of what she does.
A native of Kanye, Kenosi started her training at Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA) just after completing her high school at Moeding College. She thereafter kick-started her career as a community development officer during which she worked closely with disadvantaged and challenged families. Her qualifications include a Diploma in Youth Work attained in Zambia and later a Degree in Social Work from the University of Botswana (UB). She worked as a Social Worker for a long time at the Gaborone City Council (GCC) where she did anything from school social work, prison social work to arm counselling. She was one of the pioneers of a successful project to rehabilitate street kids or ‘bo Bashi’ as they were loosely known then. It is again during this period that she and other members of the social work unit acted as public counsellors through the popular Kutlwano magazine column known as ‘Mma Malome’.
Kenosi would later work for the Ministry of Education where she among others coordinated the early childhood programme. She retired from civil service in 2006, but continued doing consultancy work. In 2010 she was invited to participate at a peace ambassadors’ conference abroad. In 2011, she would again be invited to New York for another peace conference where she was certified as a Peace ambassador. The position, she says, led her to work with an NGO called Spring of life, which dealt with vulnerable women and children.