1987, Botswana, Molepolole College of Education in the village of Molepolole. This was my first graduating class: Tiny, Soks, Shelia, Dennis, Kelone, Old Man, Debra, Dolly, Rejoice, and teacher - -Manatsa.
This was written about me in our College Viewbook(Chester College of New England) a few months ago:
“When Laura Ives left her tenured faculty position at San Francisco State University, her mother was a little skeptical of her plans. Our Vice President of Academic Affairs & Student Services was giving up teaching in America to join the Peace Corps. She knew that she wanted to take her skills in sculpture and use them for the greater good. Despite the familial opposition, Laura packed up her belongings and left the comfort of the bay area and set out for her new life in Botswana.
Things were a little bit different over there. There was a five-year drought where she did not have running water in her house and fetched the water from a local well. The Batswana live in villages, living in homes (rondavels) made of mud and cow dung. But the biggest surprise came when a top official from Botswana’s Ministry of Education came and knocked on her door at the secondary school where she was teaching Design Technology. They were looking for an experienced art educator and found her resume with Peace Corps. They offered her the position of Head of the Art Department for the country’s first teacher training college, Molepolole College of Education (MCE).
Laura began her work at MCE by training the first Batswana art teachers for secondary school. She also worked with the Batswana to develop the Junior Secondary Art curriculum. She learned on her arrival that the children of Botswana had never studied art in a school setting. So she set out to work. The Batswana field tested the new art curriculum over the next six years at schools across the country. At the outset of their work some officials said that they did not have talented young artists in their country. They soon learned that Batswana students could produce world class pieces of art; they just needed a little guidance from art teachers.
“It is personally and professionally gratifying to have been offered the opportunity of a lifetime to tap into the deep imaginative soul of Botswana's teachers and students.” VP Ives says, “This revelation reinforced my commitment to write and publish a second book that presents this art program's successful conceptual development and displays its rich and remarkable artwork.”
In 1992, Macmillan Botswana Co published her 369 page teachers' guide, Art: A Curriculum for the Junior Secondary Schools of Botswana. After seven years in the making they had finally laid the groundwork to make art a sustainable school subject for the students of Botswana. When Laura arrived in 1984 only a handful of students studied art in the secondary schools, and those students were in schools where there were expatriate teachers. By the time she left Botswana in 1992 -- after the art curriculum had been established, over 10,000 secondary students throughout the country were enrolled in art, all being educated by her former MCE students.
In 2003, she visited the country again to see how the progress was going in the secondary schools. By that time, more than 50,000 students were being educated in the arts.