Having earned a good reputation as a part time art teacher at Matshwane Primary School, Sheila became the Art teacher at the newly opened Delta Waters International School when she left Croc Camp. Delta Waters was the brain-child of Fleming Olsen, a Dane who had come to Botswana as an instructor at the Brigades, an institution started in 1965 by South African, Patrick van Rensburg, to teach building skills to school leavers. Fleming had stayed on in Botswana, started a successful metalworks and married a Motswana lady. He faced a problem with the education of his own kids, so tenaciously began to build and staff his own school.
Sheila started teaching there in 1998, under a mophane tree, there being no classroom for her. Besides having attended art school herself, she had no teaching qualification, but Fleming stated that up until her resigning in 2003, the school had had no better art teacher. Her innovative lessons and discipline became legendary and her good results with the GCSE requirements spoke for themselves.
On Friday, 5th Feb 1999 Sheila borrowed our 4×4, purchased from Joy Evans when she returned to England, fitted with my special roof-rack. A group of Delta Waters kids were going to Moremi Game Reserve for the weekend. They were to travel in Fleming’s multi-seated safari vehicle and Sheila would bring the camping kit. She backed the Hi-Lux double cab up to our store room as I left for work.
When I returned in the evening to an empty home, I walked across the vacant parking spot where I had last seen her loading camping gear.
There was a loud crack as a Raintree (Lonchocarpus capassa) branch broke off and fell. I fled to safety, well aware that this was a frequent occurrence, and turned to look back to see the damage. The shattered branch was lying in the shrubbery, easily thick enough to have killed whosoever it connected on its way down.
The hair rose on the back of my neck and a cold shudder robbed me of breath as I began to realise that it was only a vision. No branch had fallen while I was there.
The first thing that Sheila did when she returned on Sunday evening was to apologise that the roof rack had been damaged by a falling branch…
The gardener had been on the load bed, receiving as Sheila passed him the camping gear, when she heard the first creak. She yelled for him to jump, but he froze in confusion and forced her to tug him off the vehicle. A split second later the branch snapped and fell on the roof rack where he had been standing.
The square tube was bent into a u-shape, but the roof rack was still serviceable. The packing went ahead after the shaken gardener recovered from the shock.
With some disbelief, Sheila heard me tell her that I already knew of the incident, and what had happened when I got home.
She had brought with her one of the students from Delta Waters, Catriona Teed-Rollo, who had been miserable in the hostel there, suggesting that she come to board with us. I dropped her off at the school almost every day while she was with us and we came to love her as a daughter.