John Mackenzie School: 120 Years of ‘The Best I Can’.

Part 2: John Mackenzie School Today

Moosa Lambat, the current principal of the John Mackenzie Senior School, hails from Zimbabwe originally and is now a naturalised citizen of Botswana. He has been at the school for 21 years. He was originally recruited as a mathematics teacher in 1999, and thereafter has been promoted through the ranks and has been at the helm of the Senior School for 15 years.

He has been intimately involved in the growth of the Senior School over the years and can proudly tell you many a story of its development. A genuine ‘Mr. Chips’, he is unique, as he carries much of the institutional history of the school with him, and he imbues a deep passion for all things John Mackenzie School-related.

Anthony (Polly) Pautz, principal of the Primary School and a permanent resident of Botswana, originates from the Eastern Cape region of South Africa, but has been involved with private education in Botswana for the past 30 years. Pautz has recently returned to John Mackenzie Primary. Before doing so he worked in four other schools in Botswana, including a 10-year stint as headmaster at an independent school in Francistown, and he spent 10 years heading independent schools in Oman, South Africa and Qatar, also teaching in China.

Both principals have a deep-rooted knowledge of Botswana and a sensitivity to and understanding of the people of this magnificent country.

Both are also passionate about sport and outdoor life, as well as genuine holistic education. They are excited about the future of the school and developing it to meet the challenges of 21st century education.

CHOPS and ISASA

Francistown was originally a mining community. As the second city in the country, the community is regularly affected by its ever-changing economic fortunes. However, this resilient community has always risen to the challenge and we believe that the school’s motto, ‘The Best I Can’, is indicative of the community that it serves. Because the school has such a long, rich history, its alumni hold many prominent positions in Botswana and internationally.

Being the first independent school to be established in the city, John Mackenzie School has strong links with all aspects of our diverse community and is representative of the colourful diaspora that makes up this unique city. Based in the heart of the central business district, the school is part of the pulse of the integrated society which it represents and serves.

The school is a northern region member of the Conference of Heads of Private Primary and Secondary Schools of Botswana (CHOPS). Several other Botswanabased ISASA member schools are also CHOPS members. In both sporting and cultural events, John Mackenzie students interact with children from schools in the city and as far afield as 500 km away.

Sports fixtures and extra-curriculars

There are three CHOPS member schools in Francistown. We travel together to ‘away’ sports fixtures and invite schools from other regions to visit us for the same reason. This concept has worked well for us in being able to facilitate regular interaction and competition, notwithstanding our remoteness. Being a coeducational school, we generally try to accommodate both genders in their respective sports on a particular fixture day. Our pupils, by interacting regularly with the other two schools in the city, form a close and healthy relationship and respect for their competitors as well as long lasting friendships.

CHOPS north member schools and CHOPS south enjoy competing in the following sporting codes each term: swimming, tennis, athletics, cricket, soccer, netball and softball. These are always the highlight of our calendar and some of the pupils are awarded provincial colours for their selection and representation. Friendly rivalry exists and parents travel from far and wide to support their respective teams.

In addition, our Interact and Outreach Clubs work closely with charity organisations in the city, both by fundraising and participation in various projects. Our outreach activities also extend to assisting teachers from local public schools with regard to upskilling and sharing best practice.

Vibrant and flamboyant

Although our student body consists of a high percentage of Batswana students, the enrolment is also represented by 22 additional nationalities. This array of countries represented at John Mackenzie School creates a unique diversity of cultures and customs. The vibrant and flamboyant blend adds an eclectic sparkle to our school’s traditions.

It would be remiss not to mention how unified our student body is. This ‘collective character’ is often mentioned by visitors to the school. Our well-travelled staff comment on what a pleasure it is to encounter the welcoming nature, openness and warmth of our student body. It is a unique trait that is difficult to pinpoint. The old-fashioned qualities of politeness and good manners appear to be the trademark of our students.

Although the staff cohort is not as diverse as our student complement, it too has a multinational composition and many of the teaching staff members have worked abroad. Although it is such a diverse school, everyone at John Mackenzie School is fully committed to the localisation policy of the country. Through our intern and upskilling programmes, we have reaped the benefit of acquiring a number of home-grown personnel, alumni included.