Our latest blog entry is by Bogolo Joy Kenewendo, a 2012 Chevening Scholar from Botswana.
Bogolo is studying for an MsC in International Economics at the University of Sussex. If you are a Chevening scholar and are interested in submitting a blog entry for the Chevening Conversations blog, then please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a story of a Botswana public school (aka Setswana Medium School) product. In the midst of a private school fees review in Botswana, there has arisen a debate over the differences in the quality of education and calibre of students from these schools.
In defence of public schools: I am a proud Setswana school product and thanks to my fierce and strict teachers who urged me to do extra curricula activities including debate, public presenting, volunteering, I am now a part of one of the most prestigious scholarship programs in the world.
Through being a Chevening scholar I have attended several interesting events and met some incredible people including David Cameron, William Hague, Speaker of House of Commons John Bercow, Lord Speaker Baroness D’Souza, Lord Browne of Ladyton and many others. I had never been to the UK before and yet I felt very familiar with the UK, particularly London: I had grown up with the James Bond movies and others which showcased the amazing architecture and skyline of London.
In all of the movies and pictures, there was always a constant; Big Ben of the palace of Westminster. Naturally when I finally made it out here I had to see this building thus ‘validating my arrival’.
I was in absolute awe, not only of its beauty, but also because my mind rushed through all kinds of times this building had been through; from being the primary monarchical residence, to being brought to ashes by a fire, world war bombing… this is truly an iconic building.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get to see the inside of this building and certainly not the private halls that are not open to the public.
My first time at this time defying building was at the invitation of House Speaker at his private halls for the centenary celebrations of the existence of the ACU, the body managing Chevening scholarships for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is the world’s first and oldest international university network, established in 1913.
It has in 100 years has sponsored tens of thousands scholars from over 163 countries. Being a part of such a celebration humbled me: as I am just a drop to this sea and it’s every drop which is able to majestically magnify these scholarships. https://www.acu.ac.uk/news/view?id=57&x=news/list
The next time, I was at the invitation of Baronness D’souza Lord Speaker for a private one on one conversation.
This is a woman of formidable force, a trained scientist who became a human rights and development professional. You know what they say ‘charity begins at home’, she gave up her international career to work back at home in the House of Lords, as the speaker she intends on improving the public’s perception of the house.
One of the things I took from our chat is that accessibility humanizes you; when people see you as human they can relate to you and will help you in reaching your goals, this makes one’s job easier. She gave me an opportunity to do what I love best; sell Botswana! I pretty much told her all I know and love about my country and as you can imagine, that was a long conversation.
My last time (for now) was at the esteemed invitation of Lord Browne of Ladyton. I was barely hours from visiting Barcelona (which was a whirlwind, a story for another time!) and to be honest I was exhausted and didn’t have great expectations because I was unprepared.
The thing is I have a routine for pre-meetings, I psych myself up and make some talking points and all but because I had just landed, I did not have time to do all my crazy preparations. However, this visit turned out to be a real treat!
As we walked through the halls of Westminster I got a nice introduction to British history, the history of the building, for example the architect responsible for the rebuilding was Sir Charles Barry who worked with Pugin and Grace for the interior. After an insightful and interesting look into Britain delivered by one of those that know it best, we settled into a tea room overlooking the Thames and just for a second, I lost myself in that elegant view.
Here we continued our conversation which covered everything from the British Empire, the Commonwealth and development, all with a strong base on leadership.
Lord Des Browne’s political career started in 1989 when he served as MP in parliament, he later held several cabinet portfolios such as Secretary of State for Defence under PM Tony Blair and PM Gordon Brown. A lawyer by training, Lord Browne was very frank and honest on issues discussed and this left me dumbfounded at times.
One thing I’d like to share from this meet is a statement he said or implied more than once: ‘real change needs real leadership’. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this statement, however, coming from a leader of his stature, it was comforting to hear him say it with such a passion. There was definitely something different in the way he said it.
He joined politics not for the fame or money but because he wanted to do more for what he believed in and his country. He also said ‘ Political leadership is very important; we need people who are willing to go beyond their needs and who will recognize a requisite for change’. I get and believe that Political inertia stunts development and progress, we need to catch up with the times and reduce the years we take to create change for the better.
At this point I thought I had reached the climax of my visit and I was totally unprepared for what came next. I was shown to a special gallery where David Cameron delivered his statement to the house on Afghanistan (the dates the army would leave) and additionally on youth unemployment. Those who know me, would understand my excitement; how coincidental that the house debates an issue close to my heart when I’m there.
Since I’m already discussing politics, I might as well share one of the contentious chats over the months with scholars and professionals. We always seem to touch on the need for MP term/service restriction. I mean we have one for the President; in Botswana the President can only serve for 2 terms, all the while with MPs who have served for 30 years!
I greatly value experience and the wealth of knowledge that comes with serving for that long; however there is a challenge of breaking away from habit, the norm and the tradition. We limit innovative ideas and debates in our parliaments; we need some ‘fresh blood’, people who can challenge the status quo. Isn’t it just a great time to be a youth right now, particularly in developing countries?
Most debates are about us and in some countries the regulators are fairly accessible and there are ways in which one can contribute to policy in various aspects that titillate one’s interest. I think if we miss this opportunity to challenge governments and hold them accountable we would have not only failed ourselves but our future generations.
Not too bad of a story by a public ‘Setswana medium’ school alumni, eh? I have been warmed by these experiences and I thank Chevening Scholarships but most importantly Meepong CJSS and Ledumang Senior School. Personally I don’t think I’ve been disadvantaged by the school system I’ve been through but rather molded to have thick skin, to find opportunity in the desert (mabudula ka archar! Hehe, innovation right there!), thanks Mr Adams, Molapong and others for your services.
Tota ke lebogela le nyola e e nkgodisitseng (I also thank the public school break time beans that helped me grow)!
One last thing; May the parents of our children be diligent, responsible, successful and rich!