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Matsha College rises from ashes

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 12 February 2020   |   By Eric Raphuti
Matsha College rises from ashes

Located in the southern part of Kang, Matsha College’s history of notorious acts by students is well documented. According to the school records the school only enjoyed stability under the sound management of Leano Mokete. Mokete who had good reputation of good management and was a disciplinarian of note guided Matsha College to position 5 in 1995.

Thereafter, the school was rocked by gross misconduct of students and it was buried in the graves of underperforming public schools in Botswana. It was the school that was well known to breed morally incorrigible students. Parents who wanted to see their children excelling academically did not want their children to be admitted at this school.

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Mentioning the name ‘Matsha’, the people firstly remembered the 2003 bizarre incident of methanol which left the nation in state of shock. The Education Ministry by then was left with no choice but to close the school temporarily. Methanol is an extremely toxic alcoholic substance and if ingested it can cause permanent blindness or death. The initial signs of methanol poisoning include depression of central nervous system, headache, dizziness, nausea, lack of coordination and confusion.

Methanol has some certain similarities to ethanol but the latter can be denatured and made suitable for drinking. Methanol is used in industries as antifreeze, solvent and fuel as a denaturant for ethanol. In schools, it is used in science laboratories to teach students about different types of alcohol. On that fateful day, students broke into the science laboratories and stole bottles of methanol. The incident was also combined with stealing of computers in computer laboratories. Some suspects were arrested by Kang Police and detained for some days under heavy investigations. While some were languishing in police cells, other partners in crime were busy guzzling stolen methanol.

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 The school management was alerted to a boy who complained of losing sight and after further interrogation he confessed to drinking the poisonous methanol stolen from the lab. The boy was rushed to hospital after collapsing and was later certified dead. After realising the reality of the crisis, the school management rounded the students and begged those who had drunk the methanol to come forward.  Other 70 students handed themselves to authority and they were rushed to Kang Clinic. Some of them were flown to Gaborone’s Princiss Marina Hospital in critical situation and eight students later died bringing the number of methanol causalities to nine.

Since the painful events of 2003, the school continued to perform badly and only competing with its neighbour Gantsi Senior Secondary School for the last two positions of senior schools in Botswana. It was now a norm that when BGCSE results were released it is either Matsha College or Gantsi SSS occupying the red zone.

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Fast forward to 2015, another painful incident happened for Matsha students which once again left the nation asking whether the Kang based school is a hub of Satan. On that day a government truck which was transporting the Remote Areas Dwellers Programme(RADP) students from Matsha overturned on the Marwamosu - Letlhakeng road near Dutlwe village, killing five students on the spot while two others died at the hospital. Many others were seriously injured and left traumatised by the horiffic accident. 

When the remaining form four students at school heard the sad news they protested by vandalising the school and complained about the abuse and tribalism tendencies from school authority particularly the then school head Phodiso Phori. Teachers were also alleged to be secretly sympathetic to the students and fought in the same corner. Phori was later demoted to Tshimologo CJSS in Klaafontain in Gantsi District.

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The tendency of vandalism however continued into the year 2016 when students burnt down the school kitchen. At that juncture, the school management had thrown in the towel after numerous strategies at behavioural modification of students failed dismally. However, that incident was a blessing in disguise for the school as the Education Ministry found the right medication to the persistent disease of Matsha.

The former Assistant Minister of Basic Education Moiseraela Goya together with his permanent secretary, Grace Muzila recruited the renowned Tshokologo Dineo to head Matsha College. Dineo is an educationalist and results-oriented strategist who is well known in the corridors of Education Ministry. At the time of his recruitment he had retired from public service in 2015. His legacy includes resurrecting Moeng College, Lotsane SSS, Bakwena Kgari CJSS in Serowe, Bonwatlou CJSS in Serule to mention but few.

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Speaking to this publication at his office, Dineo admitted that the commencement of his duty in early 2017 at Matsha was not a walk in a park. His first approach was to do situational analysis of the whole school and the findings were totally unimpressive. The school was seriously marred by students’ indiscipline, both teaching and non-teaching staff were demoralised. He understood that if he cannot win the hearts of his staff, his plans were going to be hard on the ground.

The first strategy he employed was to organise some series of mindset change workshops for staff to motivate them. The outcome was positive as teachers and other staff members started to enjoy their work. Still on the side of staff, he advocated for their promotion because he had realised that lack of promotion was also a demoralising factor. The regional office in Hukuntsi acceded to his demand and most of teachers were promoted through Affirmative Action programme.

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On the side of students, he organised a Boot Camp in collaboration with Botswana Scout Association(BSA). The mandate of the camp was to motivate the students and instil character building. He said the camp yield positive results as students start to discover themselves and know their purpose in life. He stated that Scripture Union also helped in character building through seeking God’s intervention.

All these initiatives transformed the image of Matsha College from its usual bad reputation. The school was in position 32 out of 34 schools with 12.06 percent pass in 2014, the following year it occupied the same position with 10,02 percent. In 2016 it was in position 31 with 13.06 percent while in 2017, the school was in position 33 with 11.55 percent. However, in 2018 there was a slight improvement as it records 20.2 percent and moved to position 25. The real resurrection came in 2019 when the school recorded 38.52 percent and occupy position four.

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Dineo said the performance of the school cannot be attributed to one man because his administration philosophy is centred on team work, consultation and delegation. He applauded stakeholders such as former students for sponsoring prize giving day every year, buying jojo tanks as they are sometimes faced with water challenge and also bought laptops for the best performing teachers.

However, the secret of Dineo’s administration is in strict monitoring and supervision. This reporter was shown some tracking documents such as Student Performing Tracking Document, Grade Analysis Tracking Document and Departmental Tracking Document. All these are used to track the performance and the responsible teacher had to account.

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Although he had been affected by huge transfer of his management team, Dineo is still determined to lead the school to position one. He said students are well behaved and understand their motto which calls for "A different me, a different Matsha 2017 and beyond".

For his part the Vice Chairperson of Parents Teachers Association (PTA) Robert Ditlhobolo said the good results are a product of a good working relationship between parents, teachers and learners. He said many students are disciplined today because parents are hands-on in their academic work. In appreciation of commitment from parents, Ditlhobolo said although some of them come from different far flung areas outside Kgalagadi, they usually attend PTA meetings in large numbers. He also applauded other stakeholders for helping in transforming the school.

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The best performing student Maatla Mogosane from Kang also appreciated the school management for turning the school which was known for bad record into a triumohant  school today. She also gives credit to her mother who always encouraged her to study hard as she aspires to study medicine abroad. 



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