On Saturday 8th October 2022, I was overjoyed to be part of a final celebration of my secondary school’s 50th anniversary, together with my husband and son, as well as my good friends, Polelo, Elisa and Tapiwa, all of us proud members of MAP Class of 1998!
Maru-a-Pula, translated as ‘Clouds of Rain’ and fondly referred to as MAP, was established in 1972 with Deane Yates, who had previously been the Headmaster of St. John’s College in Johannesburg, South Africa, as its founding Headmaster. The school was graciously gifted 20 hectares of bushland (then on the outskirts of Gaborone) from the Government of Botswana. When I was there, most of the current buildings, laboratories and classrooms were in place, the oldest ones identified by their dark brown face brick walls. But we often heard from some of the founding students and older teachers, of the times there had only been a few classrooms, with some lessons held under trees. By the time my year arrived in the nineties, our main complaint was the lack or air-conditioning in some of the older classrooms like Geography, History and Maths, as well as the abundance of bare Botswana ground. The daily polishing of our black shoes seemed in vain as by the time we got to the second class, they were coated in dust!
The school takes pride in its vision of Educating the Whole Person: LEARN. RELATE. GROW and they have always been committed to high-quality learning, interpersonal understanding, the building of character and inclusivity as noted on their website – “we will promote multiculturalism through our curriculum and our engagement with local and international communities.”
Alongside a solid education, participation in at least one Service, one Club and one Sport was compulsory each term. There was much grumbling about this but when we left, many of us realised just how much these activities had shaped and developed our character and perspective. I threw myself into several services and clubs, and even though I wasn’t an athlete, at least once a week each term, I was exposed to sports ranging from softball, volleyball, basketball, and field hockey. Ditiro was always active in sports and his running career began on the dusty 400m track. His father was a teacher at the school, so he lived on this campus for most of his childhood, making this trip back even more special for him. When we arrived, he was greeted very warmly at the gate by some of the guards who still remembered him!
We spotted Tapiwa, then Polelo and her family, and shortly after, Elisa and Thebe. We made our way through the school to the sports field, and I was amazed by all the greenery! The morning started off with aerobics, after which we were welcomed by a teacher I didn’t recognise.
But then… onto the stage came a familiar face, Ms Brown – it was surreal seeing her, even more so for Ditiro, as she was one of the teachers who had inspired his running career as a teenager. She gave instructions of the looped course – those doing 10km would run four loops, and those doing 5km, would loop twice. The 10km runners were called to the start and the 20-minute delay of the 5km race meant that we could watch the 10km runners go past us at least once before we started. It was so much fun shouting out Class of ’98, Class of ’96, Class of ’94, as they ran past. Ditiro looked very comfortable in his first lap, sitting around 4th, but I could tell from his gait that he had a lot more in the tank. And indeed, he took the lead around 3.5km.
Around 7am, the 5km runners were called to the start. Thiwa had woken up with a sore tummy so I wasn’t optimistic that we would finish the race. But he seemed bright enough for us to try.
We set off – first around the football field, then the grassy rugby field, back onto the track around the football field before making our way roughly around the border of the school, passing some of the staff housing, the girls’ boarding house, Ditiro’s old house, school entrance, and then all the way back to the start for one loop. The route varied between gravel, grass, pavement and tar, with at least three water and fruit stops in one loop.
It was on our second loop that we heard the cheers across the field for the 10km champion – Ditiro! We shouted from the rugby field even though we knew he couldn’t possibly hear us! This motivated Thiwa to keep going (when we later told Kaia, who was at a maths competition, about her dad’s win, she asked rather sarcastically, “Did he win in the OLD people’s category?” The cheek of a pre-teen! When I told her he was the overall winner, I spotted a wry little smile.
Thiwa ran the first kilometre without stopping but for the remaining 4 km, we alternated between running and walking, with a lot more walking in the final kilometre. But as we turned the corner by the football field, he gave his last bit of energy for a very enthusiastic finish!
Ms Brown asked the school photographer to take a photo of the 10K champion and his son, and of course Ditiro had to get a photo with Ms Brown. Ditiro asked if they still have the MAP Running Club and she said students are still working their way back to running-fitness after the pandemic. It’s easy to forget just how much kids were affected by the pandemic, both physically and socially. I hope MAP Running returns to its former glory days as I’ve seen the incredible LIFE impact it has had on Ditiro and so many runners from those days.
Ditiro is not a man of many emotions, but I know just how much running on this track meant to him – this is where it all began. Some of you have asked whether this is the beginning for Thiwa too? Haha! Let’s just say, right now, there is a whole lot of bribing going on…
But I will keep encouraging both him and his sister in the hope that they grow to like it – if they don’t, I guess they can start in their 30s like some of us did! As always, it was amazing to hang out with these girls – 28+ years of friendship and counting!
After the race, some of us stayed a bit longer for the fun day – there was a tug-of-war, sack race, musical chairs, 5-a-side football and netball, as well as a few stalls selling hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, ice cream, plus some trinkets for the kids!
I hope you enjoyed this fun run in the sun with us! Where did you run this weekend? When was the last time you went back to your high school? Are you still in touch with high school friends? Did you marry someone from your high school? 😉