Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another jewel in Botswana

Botswana is home to the two richest diamond mines in the world - Orapa and Jwaneng.  It is these diamonds that have provided the stability for the country, making it the envy of the rest of Africa.

But natural resources run out, sometimes sooner, sometimes later.  What can follow them to prolong the country's stability?

In a different context, Confucius had the answer:  "If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

My headmaster when I was in high school in Johannesburg was Deane Yates, a man for whom we all felt a modicum of fear.  We called him Blogs.  When he left the school, he went to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, to found a school to educate the children of Botswana for the future.

Founder Deane Yates with wife Dorothy
He called the school Maru-a-Pula, which means “clouds of rain” or “promises of blessings” in Setswana. Rarely are schools so aptly named.

Built on twenty hectares of land given to the school by the President of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama, it is truly a gem, not only in Botswana, but throughout Africa.  Rather than listing its amazing results here, I direct you to its website.

What I want to tell you about is the impression it has left on me on various visits over the past ten years.

First, having come from racially segregated South Africa and having lived in a so-called integrated USA, I've never been to a school where people of different backgrounds don't let the differences get in the way.  Whether staff or students, people are not White, Black, etc., they are people  The school shows what could be, given an environment where differences are valued and not denigrated.

3 of 15 finalists for the Southern African De Beers English Olympiad
came from Maru-a-Pula: Nandini Kochar, Tawanda Mulalu and Vamika Sinha
Second, it is one of the few schools I've ever been to where the students would rather be at school rather than elsewhere.  There is a potent happiness as one walks around.  Staff and students are enjoying themselves.

Third, like the school I attended, St.John's College, an emphasis is placed on producing graduates with a rounded background.  Music, sport, community service are required, as well as commitment to studying.  Maru-a-Pula's website tells you of the academic success it has, as well as the marimba band that has toured the world (click here to listen to the kids playing and really enjoying themselves in California), the remarkable annual festival of music - Maitisong, and the sporting achievements. 

The Marimba Band

The 2012 Marimba Band

Student art projects are displayed around campus
Art is displayed on many walls - outside for all to see
Maru-a-Pul is proud to be African
New books in the library

Maru-a-Pula gets support from many sources

Chemistry Lab

Fourth, the school is a place of beauty, not the beauty that one dreams about, but a beauty appropriate to an arid climate.  People who live where there is little water will approve that every building has large water-storage barrels catching the rare rainwater that comes of the roofs.  There is little grass and, like Kubu's garden at home, a lot of succulents.

Finally, I knew Deane Yates, the founder, and David Matthews, Maru-a-Pula's second headmaster, who also taught me in high school.  And since writing about Botswana in the Detective Kubu series, I have got to know the current principal, Andy Taylor, an American by birth and a citizen of the world.  He has so impressed me in different ways:  his commitment to a rounded education being the necessary basis of good governance and democracy; his willingness to open doors for us and introduce us to some of Botswana's remarkable people; and his friendship and hospitality. Michael feels the same about him, so we dedicated A Death in the Family to him.

Headmaster Andy Taylor
Every writers motto - on the wall of Andy Taylor's office:
No day without a line!
I can only urge all our readers to visit Botswana, not only for the spectacular wildlife and friendly people, but also for its natural resources.  Unfortunately diamonds are not cheaper in Botswana, but the natural resources at Maru-a-Pula are much more valuable.    

Stan - Thursday


  1. Stan and I don't usually completely agree on a topic - that what makes our brainstorming fun and useful - but on Maru-a-pula and Andy Taylor we are 100% in agreement!

  2. What a jewel of a post, Stan. You know that I fell in love with Botswana when I first went there. I went back as soon as I could, but the more I learn of it from you, the more of it I long to go back again. I have some small diamonds that I treasure because they remind me of my first trip to Africa where David bought then for me at the Cullinan mine in South Africa. But I have always known that education is a girl's best friend.

  3. Great post Stan.
    Tony Blair said that he wanted 50% of British students to gain a degree. That and many other things have resulted in a total lack of respect for education. Kids play with mobiles in class and claim an infringement of their human rights when told to pay attention. I am involved in a case where a teacher had her arm broken by a pupil... the pupil was back in that teachers class the following day. I could rant but will refrain myself.
    Could it be Darwinism for this stage of evolution- the realization of the value of a good education?

  4. I hit on all the links and the text is impressive, but the California music video blew me away...the young lady on the right plays some mean sticks. Still, what impressed me most, was the school's taste in new book acquisitions.

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  7. Glad to see that my school had such a great impact on you! Was a pleasure to read.