JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, August 8, 2019 – Great news for the country is that Donald Molosi’s new book titled ‘Dear Upright African’ scooped the Best Narrative Award at the African Authors’ Awards 2019 held in Johannesburg, South Africa recently. Molosi is a Botswana-born actor and writer. In his magnum opus, Dear Upright African, Molosi shares personal stories of his experiences as a student in both government and private schools in Botswana.
Molosi further uses these anecdotes to advocate for the decolonization of the curriculum in schools across Africa. The book bears a foreword by Tsitsi Dangarembga, and just last month, Molosi was invited to address ambassadors and diplomats at the African, Caribbean and Pacific Secretariat in Brussels, Belgium and the contents of Dear Upright African formed the basis of his address.
Speaking from Johannesburg where he is currently on tour with his book following the win, Molosi says, “to receive this African Authors Award is an honor I will always deeply cherish. I dedicate this award to the life and legacy of Dr. K. T. Motsete, a Motswana educationist and pan-African who advocated against colonial education in Africa in as early as the 1930s. In his time, Dr. Motsete built Afrocentric schools in Ghana, Botswana, Malawi and other African countries. He did so in order to offer Africans an alternative to colonial mission schools and to preserve our indigenous African languages. They were school where, for example, Ikalanga was taught. Presently, the Botswana government has effectively banned Ikalanga from the Botswana classroom. The education revolution that Dr. Motsete and his generation began is the same one that my generation of upright Africans aims to complete.”
The African Authors Awards are held annually in Johannesburg, South Africa and this was the second instalment of the ceremony. At the event, held in the Sandton suburb of South Africa, Molosi’s Dear Upright African faced stiff competition from numerous books by African writers living in Africa and the diaspora. Dear Upright African initially clinched nomination in April 2019, less than a month after its worldwide release.
According to Molosi, the book also tells stories of his activism in Botswana. “When Rainbow School of Gaborone decided to ban Afros in 2017, I engaged the Principal to ensure that learners there are allowed to keep their afros. I never spoke about that experience publicly. When I gave a TED talk at Maru a Pula School in 2017 also advocating for the inclusion of African history in the African classroom, it caused online outrage from a White teacher at Maru a Pula who found my proposition ‘ungrateful’ and spewed abusive words which I cannot repeat in this interview.
Many petitioned for her expulsion as they believed her to be a particularly dangerous racist. I never spoke about that experience publicly until now in this book. All these stories and what went on behind the scenes are included in the book and I use them to illustrate the need to decolonize the learning environment for the African child. Are we sending our children to expensive schools for them to learn how to hate their Africanness?” Molosi quizzed rhetorically.
Following his win, Molosi will officially launch Dear Upright African in South Africa.
Furthermore, he will follow that up with a month-long book tour of South Africa for all of August. Since its worldwide release at the beginning of March 2019, Dear Upright African has already been launched in several countries including Tanzania, Zambia, Somaliland and Germany. At the launch of the book in Germany hosted by Humboldt University, Molosi remarked that, “It does not escape me that I launch this book in Berlin, a city where 135 years ago Africa was cut up like a cake by European powers and therefore preparing the way for the institutionalization of colonial curricula.”
According to the co-organizer of the African Authors’ Awards, Anthea Thyssen-Ambursley, Molosi’s work stands out because, “Molosi is a leader. Reading his work leaves me speechless and excited. Words fail me. Because of Donald’s work existing, Botswana and South Africa will never be the same. The African future looks bright because he is unlocking minds.”
Echoing the same sentiments, co-organizer Barbara Strydom profiled Molosi’s works at the award ceremony saying she first encountered Molosi’s powerful writings when she read his first book ‘We Are All Blue’ two years ago.
“Molosi’s work is important and he wants a better future for Africa’s children. His message is clear – he says the time is now for the African child. He wants all of us to know our African story so that we can better build our continent.”
The Botswana launch of Dear Upright African is scheduled for later in the year. Dear Upright African will also be one of the books featured at the Gaborone Book Festival to be held in September 2019. The book is available online and at selected bookstores in Botswana.
For delivery services upon purchase of the book, readers in Gaborone may contact +267 73410039 to place an order. Molosi believes that his spending equal time in government school as he did in private school positions him well to speak about the need for decolonization.
“In Botswana’s specific context, I see private school and government school as two sides of the same ineffective coin. I share how we can fix both and ensure that the African classroom, whether private or public, maximizes the potential of the African child. I went through government school in Botswana fearful because teachers assaulted us as learners whenever they felt like it. I have scars on my body from that horror. I was once smacked by a teacher for speaking Setswana in a government school. These are not things of the past. They are some of the reasons that some learners end up dropping out. In this book I share solutions to assist in making the learning environment safe for the African child. Botswana government’s attachment to a colonial curriculum is officially a national crisis.”
Below, please find an excerpt from Dear Upright African by Donald Molosi:
“My last day of school in Mahalapye was in 1995 in the middle of a bitter winter that was accompanied by floods. It became routine for we students to bring stones the size of a tennis ball to school and heat them up in the hot coals behind the school kitchen. Then we would wrap our individual stones in lots of paper and cradle them in our palms throughout assembly, which was held in the frigid open air.
One day, it was so cold and windy in Mahalapye that some of my schoolmates, who could not afford school jerseys, risked assault by our teachers and came to school wearing jackets that were not in school colors. Upon laying eyes on them, our Headmistress flew into a cyclone of rage. She confiscated all the hot stones and all the “multicolored” jackets and kept them until the next term, which was at the end of winter. During the long assemblies, I painfully watched many of my schoolmates silently sob and shiver.
In front of us the Headmistress now stood—after prayer and announcements, brandishing a purple pamphlet from Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to South Africa that year—telling us that if we stopped being “stupid” and obeyed all the school rules, we might one day be lucky enough to meet Her Majesty the Queen of England. I never forgot that. But perhaps most cruel in my memory of that day was my sudden knowledge, at that age, that for the African classroom to look as British as possible, even frostbite will be used against the African child.”