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“School from hell”

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Upon arrival in Molepolole, one is greeted by the fancy looking Blue Bows English Medium School. The outward façade gives the impression that this is an international school of repute, but for the employees, Blue Bows School is a walking nightmare. Undoubtedly, it is this perfect view that captures the attention of many when passing by the tarred road. The school has neatly-cut trees and well-painted tall buildings, no litter can be spotted around the school and the well-swept pavement going all the way to classrooms compliments the serene environment.

Yet teachers here are extremely unhappy and disgruntled. They cry of being exploited and abused daily by the school owners, Loveleen Nanuan and her mother Balbir, both of Indian origin.  Qualified secondary teachers say they are paid low salaries, with the highest paid employee said to be earning as little as P5 000 with no allowances or any benefits. The Midweek Sun is in possession of leaked confidential pay slips and bank statements that prove that a school headmaster can be paid below P5 000. This publication is also in possession of contracts between the employer and some of the teachers.

A holder of Bachelor of Science or Diploma in Physics or Mathematics earns below P4 000 at Blue Bows School. Some were even authorised by the government to teach. As evidence, they presented official letters signed by the late Director of Basic Education Lesego Morake. As if that is not enough, the teachers said that they are expected to teach all classes ranging from Pre-school, Primary, Junior and Secondary level. They are frustrated in that the school management has turned a blind eye to their cries and actually forces them to teach classes which they are not qualified for. They are even questioning the legal standing of the Pre-School. They allege that it is operating illegally. “At one point we were instructed to hide all Pre-School children during the Council inspection,” they revealed. The Kweneng District Council could not verify if the Pre-School is registered or not.

The Acting Council spokesperson Matlhogonolo Moremedi said they need a week or so to confirm the information by carrying out another inspection. The Midweek Sun team managed to get hold of several former Blue Bows teachers. They all described the school as a ‘living hell.’ “Anybody who did not obey instructions was scolded. Everyone who is there is expected to cover up for the school,” they claimed. “We did all the work, some of us were overqualified to be teaching certain classes but we were scared of getting on the wrong side of the school owner. They are not very friendly; some of us were sometimes instructed to sweep classrooms and clean toilets,” lamented one teacher. 

Asked why they never complained while living under such dreadful situations, they said, “We are hungry, the world is rough out there, we had to suffer hoping for a better tomorrow, we consoled ourselves that it was better than starving to death or sleeping on an empty stomach.” Further, they say they were forced to fake smiles and pretend all is well because they have families to feed. The high unemployment rate also forced them to swallow up the unpleasant working conditions and burn silently. Nanuan is said to be an abusive boss; she is said to have assaulted some of her employees at one point. A reliable insider revealed that she once slapped one teacher at the school and pushed the other off a chair. This publication spoke to the teachers who claim to have been assaulted by Nanuan in the past and they all confirmed that indeed they suffered abuse at the hands of Nanuan.

They are still waiting for action to be taken against her by the police. The case was reported at Molepolole Police Station but to this day, it is still pending. The Police could not confirm or deny if they have received such a case before going to print.   The school is also said to be operating without electricity and a solar system is used to power the computer lab. There is no water in the school and no working drainage either, despite using flushing toilets. In a recent phone conversation, Nanuan promised to give feedback on the allegations laid before her.

However, she never did only for her to rudely dismiss The Midweek Sun team during a visit to her hardware shop in Molepolole. She questioned why this publication was invading her personal space and led the team to a secluded place within the compound. She then revealed that she is not interested in commenting on the matter and will only comment after reading the published article. She said if teachers had a problem with her school, they should complain directly to her and not the media. During a visit to the school, students at the school revealed that there is always an overpowering stench coming from the toilets around lunch time. “There is no water and those toilets are not working but we just use them because we have no other option,” they said. They also lamented that they often find it hard to have their meals because they will be too disgusted to eat.

They complained of the unpalatable food being served there, “There is no balanced diet, we eat like beggars, today we were served spaghetti and soup for lunch and there is only one chef here cooking for the whole school,” they said. The newly-appointed headmaster of the school Thomas Tau feared for dear life and refused to comment on the pressing issues. Upon arrival at the school, this reporter found Nanuan in deep conversation with Tau. It soon became evident that she was briefing him about all the noise surrounding the school. She refused to give Tau room to speak, who later resorted to say, “I do not think I can speak anything about the school, I have one week here and I think she is better positioned to take your questions.” It was still at the school that this publication learnt that there might be unqualified teachers at Blue Bows.

Some teachers openly revealed that a student who finished schooling last year at Blue Bows School was this week introduced as a French teacher. The said individual is said to have failed all subjects but got an A in French. She is now a French teacher with the school and students admitted to have seen her being introduced as their teacher. She is alleged to be a teacher to all levels, from Primary to Secondary level. The school is said to have a total of about 100 children. Meanwhile, parents pour thousands of pula into the school per term. School fees range from approximately P3 000 Pre School, Primary P4 000 and P5 000 for Secondary level. One parent who had come to pick up their children at the school confirmed the school fees.

Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) spokesperson Edwin Maitshoko said the issue of low salaries in private institutions is of great concern to them. “Normally foreigners are the ones who are highly exploited, the market is not lucrative and forces some teachers to settle for anything that can help put bread on the table,” Maitshoko said. He added that in other instances private schools hire unqualified personnel hence the low pay. He however assured that that they are working on a passing a teaching council Bill. He said they have already been in negotiations throughout the country and have also informed the employer (government).

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Cops are not monsters – Matlapeng

Yvonne Mooka

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Crime becomes easier to fight when members of the society and the police work together, says Sejelo Police Station Commander Superintendent Mogomotsi Matlapeng.

“Police of today go to the people. We want them to see that we are not fighting them but fighting crime, hence we want to join hands with them,” said the police boss, who joined the police station this year in May from Broadhurst Police station in Gaborone.

He said that gone are the days when police officers were feared by members of the community. Supt. Matlapeng is likeable among members of his staff and the community of Kanye. He has won the hearts of many villagers in a short period of time because of his efforts to take the police station to the people.

Under him, Sejelo Police was awarded Station Community Policing award for this year by the Botswana Police Service. “We go to the people and address their issues. As a philosopher and a perfectionist myself, I believe that community policing is the way to go. “We go to schools and speak to teachers on certain issues relevant to the students. Our clusters also visit local wards to teach parents about pressing matters pertaining to crime,” he said.

Other than stock theft, the police station has recorded relatively low crime statistics. The station covers Kanye Kgosing ward, Moshana, Gasita and Selokolela.

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Murder convict, Masilo not going down without a “fight”

Keletso Thobega

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Thabo Masilo did not cringe when Judge Abednigo Tafa found him guilty of murder this past Thursday. Masilo stood erect staring ahead as if in a trance.

There was not a mutter in the courtroom when Justice Tafa stated that Masilo had intentionally murdered former St. Joseph’s College learner Tshepang Motlhabane on 16 November 2012 in Phase 4 Gaborone. In his ruling, Tafa argued that Masilo could not claim that he was acting in self defence when he had stabbed Tshepang three times. Masilo had through his lawyer Kgosi Ngakayagae insisted that Tshepang was his lover and he had stabbed her following an altercation because she had grabbed him by the balls when he had demanded his phone and P100 he had borrowed her.

Post mortem results show that Motlhabane had three wounds and died from a vein rupture. “If it was indeed self-defence, he would have not stabbed the deceased three times in different places. It is without a doubt that the accused had come to the house with the intention to commit an offence but faced with resistence from his victim, he decided to stab her,” said the judge.
He however dismissed the robbery charge.

It remains a mystery how Masilo gained entry into the property, which had a high wall and alarm system. Curious members of the public, relatives and friends of Tshepang as well as relatives of Masilo flocked Court Room 5 of Lobatse High Court for the ruling. The courtroom was so packed that some people sat at the back on the floor.

Masilo, who has lost a lot of weight, seemed to suffer a ‘leaky bladder’ as he went to the bathroom several times, escorted by prison officers. At one point during the long ruling, Masilo stopped proceedings, and through his lawyer Ngakayagae, complained that there were certain people in the courtroom taking pictures of him.

These people were seen by him only. The ruling that was read over nearly two hours painted a sad ending for the little girl who sustained wounds above the eye, on the chest and died a day after the attack. Tshepang is said to have at one point said to a nurse and relative: A lo boleletse mama gore ke a swa (Did you tell my mother that I am dying). Information provided by medical personnel indicates that she had lost a lot of blood.

Tafa read statements by 13 witnesses including Security System officers, police officers, a forensic expert, nurse, doctor, a relative and a photojournalist. All corroborated that the girl had been attacked and had locked herself in her bedroom from her assailant, who was much later found in hiding in the house. Masilo had claimed that he and the deceased were dating and he had loaned her P100 and his Nokia phone. However, when he visited her and asked that she return the money, a fight ensued and she held him by the testicles.

This, he claimed, led to him taking a kitchen knife and stabbing her in self-defence because she did not want to let go of him. Tafa said that this version of events was questionable and noted that only the accused and deceased were in the house at the said time and it would be difficult to determine exactly what had happened. He however said that there was no doubt that Masilo had killed Motlhabane.

He also noted that Masilo’s actions showed guilt as he had hidden in the ceiling of the house when he heard Security Systems personnel breaking into the house, and had also claimed to have drunk poison. He said if it was not his intention to kill Tshepang; he would have cooperated with the security officers and asked them to help Tshepang promptly.

Following the ruling, Masilo’s lawyer Ngakayagae asked for a date to be set for submissions on extenuation, saying that they would present three witnesses. The date was set to 7 February 2019 at the Gaborone High Court.

Masilo, who is already serving 15 years for robbery and rape, appears to come from a decent home. Many of his relatives were in court to offer moral support. His mother, who appeared agitated, has been by his side from day one. Considering that the family is paying one of the best lawyers in the country, it is safe to say that money is not a problem.

Although Masilo has already been found guilty, the fight appears to be for a more lenient sentence as he faces the hangman’s noose. Outside court, different camps spoke in hushed tones discussing the ruling. The mother of the late Tshepng looked sombre and frail. It is clear that the pain has not left her.

Shying away from flashing cameras and curious glances, she briefly said she was pleased Masilo had been found guilty but refused to comment further. An unidentified family representative chipped in that they were happy with the ruling. Quizzed on how they felt about Masilo she said: “We have forgiven him because we are Christians. But we are glad that justice will be served.”

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