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Fraser counts his blessings

17 Aug 2023

Having become a household name synonymous with Mater Spei and St.Joseph’s Colleges, Mr Fraser Tlhoiwe, has retired gracefully with a lot of knowledge and expertise in the fields of education and public service that the nation could tap from, given the chance. 

He is keen about life and enthusiastic about national service and serves in three trusts. 

Though retired, his memory is still as sharp as that of a 16-year-old. 

Old age does not, however, dampen his willing hands to touch anything that could keep his active mind alive. 

He is unwavering in his belief that one day he will be called into the office of Ambassador.

Mr Tlhoiwe’s passion for education is unquestionable as tears well up in his eyes when he talks about his classroom days when he did all in his power to keep children in school. 

His selflessness as a teacher is pronounced as he tells of how he affected lives of many Batswana and refugee children who attended school at Mater Spei College. 

He vividly remembers names and events as he talks about his voluntary work to educate children and keep the best crop in the classroom for the good of the economy and the children. 

“I knew that some of those children were the cream of the crop. 

When school fees were introduced, we had to send some home because they couldn’t afford to pay. 

It broke my heart. 

I had to follow one that I knew was one of the best and I woke up to traverse the North East District villages that I did not even know at the time. 

I went to one village and asked the first person I met about the girl. 

It was an old woman who did not speak Setswana and understood nothing I had said. 

I went on to another village and I was lucky to get directed to masimo, where the girl was struggling to settle in knowing her future was at stake. 

That girl passed and I was the happiest man. 

Though having missed classes, the girl proved she had what it took to excel,” explains Mr Tlhoiwe. 

Events such as children being sent home because parents had not paid school fees seemed to strike a nerve in this senior citizen. 

He cannot hold back tears. 

The vivid memory of how he drew out his hard-earned money for some or just the tedious drive to remote desolate areas to bring these gems back to the education kraal, are altruistically expressed with the satisfaction of a hero. 

He loves talking about his heroic acts. 

However, he shrugs as he expresses how the same spirit has died in the teaching fraternity. 

He decries the lack of passion for the job while blaming the transition from the Teaching Service Management (TSM) for the indolent behaviour.

 “Can’t compare. 

The teacher is not the same. 

We had 100 per cent volunteerism at the disposal of the learner with no overtime pay and of course, we did not expect any. 

In the evenings, weekends and school vacations. Not after money,” he expresses. 

At the time Tlhoiwe headed Mater Spei College, the school was ranked number one countrywide from year 2000 to 2002. 

In 2003, the results slipped a little low to third position making a comeback in 2004 and 2005 with history repeating itself in 2006. 

In 2007, he left the college for another Catholic establishment, St. Joseph’s College in the outskirts of Gaborone, where he carried on his legacy. 

Both schools have since become the beacon of O’level excellence. 

One of the most prevalent reflexes is the smile that regularly crosses his face as he speaks. 

A good indicator of smugness blended with happiness. 

That cannot be missed as his thoughts are seemingly immaculately filed and flow faster than his words. 

He speaks continually and the words he utters are not mixed-up. 

The files seem to come up and stream all the information as per expectation. 

He expresses his appreciation for the use of the latest Information Communication Technology in pedagogy. 

He acknowledges that its use is more convenient as the economy is global and influenced by such. 

With both hands in the air, shoulders shrugged, he raises his eyebrows and continues: 

“Technology is good and I cannot stop technology. 

It actually is a welcome development. 

It should be limited, though. Like democracy and freedom.” 

The disciplinarian in him suddenly shows up as he says: “All things are governed. 

As pupils are given iPads and other devices, there should be a way to curtail Artificial Intelligence sites. 

Otherwise, children will not apply themselves. 

They should be able to reason,” he emphasises. 

It just gets worrisome when jobs are lost,” he affirms. 

“It would not be appropriate if it affects world peace. 

That is not progress in the right direction.” 

This icon did not grow through the ranks. 

He actually leaped through them, flying above some on his way up. 

His resume is fit for a world leader in education. 

Like his star constellation was in perfect array, there has been life changing events that took place in his life and history seemed to keep repeating itself. 

It awes Mr Tlhoiwe how that happened like it would anyone who learns of such events. 

He talks of the scholarship in England while still a mere six-year experienced teacher with no other achievement or accolade to his name. 

Another thing that he confidently talks about with astonishment with a dash of bewilderment is how he was always favoured to be hand-picked or head-hunted for a higher position or some assignment that he never dreamt could find him. 

He highlights some of his career achievements such as when he was called to head Kwena Sereto Junior Secondary School in Molepolole, which he did for eight years. 

“The position of school head was reserved for me as I went to study in England. 

A Zimbabwean was roped in to act as a principal. 

Apparently there was no Motswana to take up the position for two years while I studied. 

On my return, I was appointed to head Molefhi Secondary School in Mochudi. 

One year at Molefhi, I received a call from Bishop Setlalekgosi of the Catholic Church. 

He said he had been speaking to the President that I go to head Mater Spei College. 

He insisted that the position was a calling from God. 

I tried to resist only to shortly find myself in Mater Spei. 

The college was enormous, with cars, a filling station and I was entrusted with the entire estate. 

Not just the college property but also that of the church. 

That is why I stayed there for eight years, with a stunning performance.” 

He excitedly says: “Getting a scholarship and promotion and you’re told to choose. 

Who else can get that except Fraser Lesang Tlhoiwe? 

It also happened with the position of Senior Private Secretary to former presidents. 

Two before me and I was told, ‘choose’. 

In fact, after six years of teaching I was appointed Shashe River School head with no experience of administration. 

I could not believe the acceleration.” Mr Tlhoiwe is modest about his achievements, either as a school head or a generic civil servant. 

He is diplomatic in acknowledging that he spearheaded government projects that may have seemed politically motivated as he was apolitical in his service. 

Candid and consummate about the projects, his face lightens up. 

“I joined teaching as a Diploma holder. 

I was the first Motswana to lead an organisation to build a house for a needy person. 

That was when I was at Kwena Sereto in 1995. 

Students had to contribute  bricks. 

I was not expecting them to bring new bricks, but to visit construction sites to get fairly well chipped bricks. 

Another project was the Lentsweletau bus stop that was renowned as Setopo sa ga Tlhoiwe in 1996. 

At Mater Spei, I led the building of a shelter at Nyangabgwe Hospital.

The situation was pathetic and I felt I had to do something about it. 

When I was the Gaborone District Commissioner, I came up with the blankets initiative. 

I had to solicit blankets and distribute them in three days. 

That year the winter was harsh. I do not boast, because I am humble,” he says, expressing satisfaction. 

“I was immediately promoted to the National AIDS Coordination Agency (NACA) as deputy coordinator. 

I couldn’t believe the speed at which it happened,” he excitedly recalls. 

With the experience that he has, he believes there should be a succession plan where officers are groomed to succeed retiring senior officers. 

He talks of the Singapore strategy that he experienced during a benchmarking exercise. 

“My travels have taught me that at the end of duty, retirees mentor and groom young people for future generations. 

They guide the young in public speaking, mentor them in sports such as swimming, table tennis and other disciplines. 

The experience of the retirees is tapped into and has a ripple effect on the economy. 

Here we waste a lot of experience from the old. 

A small token can be negotiated. 

Volunteerism should be encouraged,” he inspires. 

Trying to express his ‘youthfulness’, he runs to the kitchen and coming back to his seat, he impulsively smiles and says: “I am a highly active retiree. I am resourceful. 

I am involved with three boards.” 

Being a member of the boards based in Mmankgodi, he states that the boards are responsible for properties around the village such as the sand bed. 

Among others, Mr Tlhoiwe has served as principal registration officer and returning officer in the referendum. 

He has been coordinator and overseer of the Implementation of Old Age Pension Scheme at district level as well as being an ex-officio member of  a land board and Brigades Board of Trustees where he provided guidance, advice and direction for effective management. 

These are some of the decorations that Fraser has accrued. “People come to me for advice. 

I am retired, but not tired,” he insists. 

Mr Tlhoiwe expresses his approval of the Vision 2036. 

“I am happy with the pace. 

We just need a lot of guidance and monitoring, otherwise with the President’s Reset Agenda of Mindset Change, the vision is achievable,” he keenly expresses. “Implementation is good but monitoring is most important. 

We need monitoring at the lower level. Service provision is poor. 

People are not getting good service. Even we, retirees, we can be told, ‘come after lunch. Come tomorrow’. 

Where do we get the energy and the time to keep going to the same place?” he protests and continues: “Junior officers take customers for granted. 

He reminisces his teaching days as his frustration becomes vivid. 

“I would be in the office at 5am and was not serving on overtime payment bargain. Work demands must be made a priority. Policies are good. Minerals can get us to 2036 if we work hard. 

There is no sweet without sweat,” he accentuates, conveying feelings of assertion. 

Susceptibility of Mr Tlhoiwe comes to the fore as he talks of his encounter and experiences as Senior Private Secretary to former President, Sir Ketumile Masire.

 He yearns for those moments that kept him happier. The moments when he touched ground to take another flight to travel far and abroad. 

These are the moments that he says highlighted his career life and brought a lot of satisfaction. These were the events that led to his retirement and are most cherished. 

He describes those moments with passion and fondness that is unmatched. 

It was at this time that Tlhoiwe encountered a number of African statesmen such as Thabo Mbeki and Robert Mugabe.

“When I became the Senior Private Secretary to Rre Masire, I had another proposal from Rre Mogae. While I was yet to make the decision, I was picked by Rre Masire. 

At the time, I had no passport. 

I had to learn to write speeches and had to travel across Africa. 

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation that deals with Heads of State was the one that brought me to these people. 

At the passing of Rre Masire, there was no need for introduction for me. 

I had to make decisions for the nation with Rre Masire. I was consulted for opinion that affected the nation. 

The journey was cut short by the passing of Rre Masire. These are the moments I will not forget in my life. 

Mr Tlhoiwe holds a Bachelor of Philosophy, International Management and Policy in Education bestowed on him in 1997 and Master of Education, International Management and Policy in Education by University of Birmingham in 1998 respectively. 

It is clear that he hit the ground running when he took up agriculture as his new vocation. 

He has a Massey Ferguson tractor parked in the back yard that depicts his effort. 

He says he has small stock and is actively practicing horticulture. So Frazer Lesang Tlhoiwe, a husband and father. Ends

Source : BOPA

Author : Gontle Merafhe

Location : GABORONE

Event : Interview

Date : 17 Aug 2023