Today I choose this education veteran Baboloki Tlale . On January 1994, I started teaching professionally at Sefhare CJSS fresh from college. Mid year I was joined by other colleagues from UB, including the God fearing and visionary Mbanga Mbanga . With youthful exuberance, we then agreed to form a secondary school teacher union, unaware such law did not exist then for public service. I successfully organised a radio interview with RB1 Masaasele program & Mbanga informed the whole nation that secondary school teachers were forming a teacher trade union & that they are invited to join in large numbers. We felt BTU was not representing our interests. Apparently Cde Richard Boitshwarelo , a Deputy School Head at Moshupa snr school was listening & he immediately contacted Cde Tlale & informed him that he has just heard on RB1 that some “boys” were forming a secondary school organisation. Tlale was far in Pitsane-Molopo as School Head there but that weekend he landed in Sefhare with Cde Boitshwarelo. The meeting went well & the duo told us that there was BOFESETE (now BOSETU) but unfortunately it was in a comatose through government harassment. Me and Mbanga were immediately given positions and an interim committee set up. Cde Tlale was to later become President & Boitshwarelo Secretary General. As part of immediate training & initiation, Tlale threw us into deep waters infested with crocodiles. The government was hostile to BOFESETE. Having held two positions previously from college SRC (Minister of Information & Justice) was supposed to be an advantage, but bureaucrats proved that government was not student politics. Few months into BOFESETE leadership, Tlale organised a meeting with the then Minister of Education Dr Chiepe & her permanent secretary Mr Philimon Ramatsui. Tlale raised a number of teacher concerns, some from Headmasters conference. The serious looking Ramatsui curtly dismissed us & asked for a write up. Attempts to have our issues resolved failed & Mbanga was assigned to prepare a report of such issues. There were no computers but Mbanga prepared a hard hitting handwritten report which the PS never responded to. Under Tlale’s captainship, BOFESETE took shape as he fought tirelessly for a BOFESETE deduction code which he ultimately won in 1998 & this completely changed the fortunes of the organisation. He exposed us to real practical leadership training on how to manage school heads as activists; to manage Ministers and Education officials as well as to be productive & professional at our respective schools & it all worked as the organisation grew in leaps and bounds. I was surprised & shocked when in the early months of being roped in, Cde Zappa sent me to represent BOFESETE at Headmasters conference & he sat on the side. Back in the days, many Headmasters did not like BOFESETE & did not even want to be associated with it as government had blacklisted it as militant, sectarian, with communist tendencies & therefore they feared victimisation. I don’t remember what I said at the Heads conference, but I recall the warm relief of thunderous applause after my presentation. School Heads remain an important stakeholder in education, even today, & I have enjoyed working with most of them, though one once threw me outside “her school” when I tried to address a BISA North Central sports meeting after hours!
BOFESETE had no structures at all & Cde Tlale wanted structures built around the country & one day he brought us a diesel Fong Kong combie which he had ordered through a donation agency in Japan. He then sent me & Cde Shemaiah L. Botsie around the country to set up structures. With little fuel & no accommodation, we hit the road & were accommodated in sitting rooms by Cdes and on Fridays we looked for funerals to sleep at the vigil & eat supper, & Saturdays we gate crashed wedding ceremonies for meals. In Gantsi, we slept at Tobokani Rari’s house at Itekeng Junior and made him a Shop steward the following morning. When Cde Tlale’s elder sister went overseas, Tlale stole her computer and this was the first computer BOFESETE owned & he organised a small office in a garage in Partial, Gaborone, the first for BOFESETE. A humble character with great vision, and a love for education and latest technological gadgets, Tlale did not only advocate and lobby for the improvement of teacher welfare issues like Parallel Progression, Levels of Operation, etc, but he constructively criticized corruption, mismanagement, Vision 2016; Transportation of Students in Open Trucks; Re-introduction of School Fees, Double Shift; etc. He was at the forefront of the introduction of Teachers Day and its awards and called for Professional Teaching Council. He was the first President of Botswana Social Studies Association and the association did a lot of student centred projects and also further training the subject teachers. He is not only an educationist par excellence, but also a civil society activist having served at Botswana’s top civil society body, BOCONGO as its Executive Secretary. He is a natural environmentalist as his love for the flora and fauna is well documented as he runs his exclusive Lorato Lodge and Campsite in Muchenje, some few kilometers from Kasane. Tlale’s rich experience in education and Governance can still benefit this country immensely, and he needs to be assigned more than the Board position he holds at the UB Council. Botswana needs a better education system, and Cde Tlale and other professionals can contribute to the formulation of such!
Cde Tlale is an unsung hero. Today, I bend my knees and take off my hat in his honour!
* Former BOSETU Executive Secretary,