We first met Thobega Mokgabo during a Pan African University Debate Championship in 2016.Her passion was striking to say the least. She was teaching, coaching, interviewing and facilitating every action geared towards enhancing the oratory skills of students at the event. It was no surprise to us when we found out later on that she founded Orate Africa, an organisation aimed at promoting oratory art in Africa. With joy and dedication, she is making her passion her profession and inspiring others to do same. She is today one of the top 10 Positive African Women(#10PAW) we celebrate on women’s day.
Let’s meet her.
1-Tell us more about you.
I am a young resident and citizen of Botswana who aspires to change the lives of school going students by equipping them with the knowledge that I was taught in my secondary school years. I am therefore passionate about child development specifically in reference to oratory skills. I am also an Attorney at Law and mother of one.
2-What purpose does Orate Africa serve?
Orate Africa Trust is an organization duly registered in accordance with the Deeds Registry Act of Botswana. Amongst its various objectives, the Trust thrives to enhance oration by supporting and running projects that enrich oratory skills for students of primary and secondary school levels.
The Trust therefore promotes and organises public and private projects that are likely to contribute to the educational, economic and social development of Botswana and Africa on a regular basis. The latest additions to the Orate Africa table is Moot Court and Short Stories.
3-When did you decide to create Orate Africa and What stirred your interest in the promotion of Oratory art?
Orate Africa was founded in 2015 and registered in February 2016. However, prior to the Trust, I headed the Books Botswana Speaking Championships from 2012 to 2014. The trust was formed because I wanted a more formal organisation that could represent my ideals on a more international level and one that would have international appeal and attraction. I wish to see more students being very articulate and well informed about the choices they make and the decisions they take on a daily basis.
4-How would you rate the oratory skills of youths in Botswana and Africa at large?
Unfortunately for us, the value of oration in Botswana schools has been merely relegated as an extra-curricular activity whereas the Orate Africa Trust believes it should be a co-curricular activity. Thus, oration projects in the country do not get the proper attention they should be receiving with due consideration to the benefits they bestow on participants. Botswana schools such as Rutwang Cjss, Setlalekgosi Cjss, and Francistown Senior School are leading the pack in representing Botswana at Oratory Championships across Africa and I am positive that soon all schools will be keen to attend and learn.
On the other hand, I must say I am impressed with Teams Liberia, Swaziland and Tanzania. These are countries that are generally new in oration activities such as schools debate and public speaking but have in the shortest time managed to induct more students to reach the levels of South Africa who have been in the game for quite some time now. I also am impressed with Zimbabwe, who despite their challenges are able to represent their country well at championships across Africa with Orate Africa being the main and most inclusive.
5-Which are your two major challenges?
The first challenge is buy in and the second challenge is funding. These challenges are often interrelated. With respect to buy in, some schools feel that we are not a legitimate organisation and are hesitant to attend. However, with time and as we sell our “product” to them, they become more relaxed and less hesitant. We are currently battling with buy in from West and East Africa.
The second challenge is funding. Originally, we would have loved to have a registration fee free championships or events, but that can only be possible if we have permanent sponsors. We have been unable to secure one to date but are working on it. We are grateful to our 5 year partner for Leg 2 (Feza Schools of Dar Es Salaam) for their hospitality from 2018 to 2023. This will assist us to liase with sponsors such as Rwanda Air, Kenya Airways and the like for subsidised air travel for all students en route to our championships/ seminars.
6-Which is your biggest success story?
Our biggest success story is finally piloting the championships to be hosted in different regions and different countries every year. This is the dream of the Trust… to make it more inclusive and accessible to all schools in Africa. We have thus far hosted in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Botswana since our registration in 2016 (four main championships).
7-What are you currently working on?
We are working on the Launch of our short story category. We will launch it with a festival called “Gatwe e rile” which is a Setswana phrase used to start folklore….The Festival and launch will be hosted this March at the University of Botswana and will be co-hosted by famous Poet Barolong Seboni and our very own Tumelo Boitumelo. The Short Stories Director is Mr Kitso Gorthan Ndlovu.
8-How do you see your organization in the next five years?
In the next 5 years we will be bigger than World Schools Debate Championships, we will be the biggest host of Schools Moot Court in Africa, have the most schools inclusive spelling bee, public speaking and poetry championships in Africa and over and above that, we will be the anchor of students and their inspiration to grow bigger and better.
9-You are a passionate,happy,popular person.How do you manage to stay this enthusiastic despite your busy schedule?
I believe that everyone should change what they don’t like. Being positive makes life very enjoyable and worth the goals set. It gives one a sense of achievement and therefore more pleasurable. I strive to keep this positivity throughout my daily activities even in the face of negativity. Further, I have learnt to accept that I will make mistakes, but they should not break me. They are part of my humanity. They should instead guide me in my future decisions but I should not dwell on them.
10-Your African dream
To effectively contribute to passion in oration in thousands of of African students.by