I spent yesterday afternoon at the Queen’s Birthday party at the High Commissioner’s residence where Prince Harry joked and laughed with the other guests, telling us all, ‘Botswana is a country very close to my heart. The fact that I spend more time here than at home worries my father a lot.’
Dorcas Makgatho-Malesu, the Botswana Minister of Trade, pulled the Prince’s leg about his visits to some of Botswana’s more remote game parks, saying, ‘I was wondering when he would come into town, because we often hear that he is somewhere in the bush, so today certainly is a good day for us.’
As the party continued, I stood up immediately after the national anthem to introduce the Mophato Theatre Group. We are sponsoring Mophato, in partnership with the Botswana Society of the Arts and Korasong Radio, to go to the UK next week to perform their World Cup-themed dance spectacular “Goalmouth” at the Sage Theatre, Gateshead and at the Canary Wharf Summer Festival. It was a bit disconcerting when, half way through my introduction, the national anthem started up a second time when someone pressed the wrong button by mistake!
Today, feeling somewhat bleary-eyed and shivering with cold as the temperature overnight had dropped to 3 degrees, I accompanied Prince Harry as he launched our British Council Botswana’s 2010 Reading Challenge.
The hour-long visit to Mophane Primary School included a rousing welcome reception with the 1000 students waving British and Botswana flags. The High Commission had provided union jacks but Botswana flags seemed hard to come by, so the school resourcefully got the children to paint their own.
The Prince went round the school, talking to groups of children from lower and upper primary classes about the books which they had chosen to read. The Summer Reading Challenge began 12 years ago in the UK where now 94% of local authorities take part, with 750,000 children a year reading books for pleasure during their summer holidays. Botswana is one of 23 countries overseas where the British Council is promoting reading using Reading Challenge materials. The theme for this year’s Reading Challenge is “Space Hop” with books selected around the theme of space travel.
We then took the Prince to visit a primary one class of six year-olds where groups of children had created “Prince Harry“ and “Chelsy Davy” TV sets with a moving band of paper to practice different vocabulary items. In another class the children sang English songs and showed the different corners of their classroom used for various activities.
The visit was a great opportunity to emphasise the importance of extensive reading for pleasure and enjoyment and the role the British Council can play in helping students develop reading skills.
We are looking forward to bringing the Reading Challenge in 2011 to many more primary schools across Botswana, especially to those in rural areas.
Paul Woods is the British Council’s Director in Botswana
For more details on our work in literacy visit http://www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish-central-themes-literacy.htm