“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

It’s the 1st of March 2021 and hard to believe that a year ago our lives were turned upside down, inside out and around and around; we’re still waiting for that washing machine cycle to end so we can hang out the laundry, get on with the ironing and back to our “normal lives” again.  Is that ever going to happen?  Who knows?

One thing we do know is that we are still extremely lucky to have students from our Okavango Kopano Community Trust continuing to follow a well-trodden path to neighbouring South Africa for further studies at the prestigious educational institutions under the PeaceParks Foundation for the fourth consecutive year.

Despite these uncertain times, we remain firmly committed to the continuation of our student education programme for members of the six villages of the NG32 communities we work with in the Okavango Delta. 

Tlotlo Segole and Anderson Sefo from the villages of Xharaxau and Ditshiping respectively are the two lucky candidates selected out of 19 hopefuls to attend the SACT (South African College for Tourism) a tourism training college situated in the  foothills overlooking the picturesque town of Graaf Reinet in the eastern Cape, 1867 km from Maun.

Amidst a mixture of excitement and anxiety, preparations ensued to ensure they were travel- ready. In addition to passports, the list includes police and medical clearances, robust suitcases, basic uniforms for both seasons, toiletries and initial overnight trips to Gaborone to submit study visa applications.  With great relief, the latter came through quickly thanks to the tireless efforts of Tumie Mathlaware whose extraordinary patience and commitment since the inception has been invaluable.

With no regular bus services currently operating across border, the travel arrangements have become more of a challenge.  With Covid still very much a part of our lives in Botswana, changes  needed to be embraced.  But first the mandatory PCR Covid  test – easy and efficient, and, in Tlotlo’s words “it’s not as painful as people say”!

Fizzing with excitement, but sad to be leaving family, the duo were ready for an early 05.00 am bus bound for the capital city of Gaborone.  (I learnt later that the car taking poor Tlotlo to the bus rank broke down en route, requiring her to frantically hail a cab.) 

With negative PCR test results in hand after a 12 hour journey, a taxi safely deposited them at their nearby overnight accommodation.  So far so good – or so we thought!

Friday 06.00 am and a message from Tlotlo advising that the bus to Joburg has been cancelled.  What a heart-sinking moment (with a touch of mild panic!).  After several frantic phone calls back and forth with the bus company the latter finally relented and the bus continued to Johannesburg Park Station, as scheduled, with a dozen or so other appeased travellers.

A relatively smooth and courteous border crossing allowed them to arrive in good time at Park Station bus depot downtown Johannesburg to connect with the overnight bus to Graaf Reinet.  Shortly before midnight a ping on my phone confirmed the bus had broken down in the middle of nowhere.  But with admirable zeal the driver and staff on board resolved the problem and they were thankfully on their way again.

Finally, and with great relief, both travel-weary students arrived safely at their final destination with a warm and friendly welcome awaiting them.  We received news later that they settled in well.

This week is orientation week and news from Tlotlo is that she has 2 lovely roommates – “aVenda and a Xhosa” – and news from Anderson is that he has “made some friends and is settled and happy”.  

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