As an extension of the research that I am conducting here in the Makgadikgadi I am working with a couple of schools from two of the villages surrounding the Makgadikgadi National Park, in particular Khumaga Primary School. I have visited Khumaga School on a number of occasions and I have spoken with pupils about the wildlife within the National Park, and in particular about the zebras. Nine of the pupils have also helped me to name the zebra which I collared earlier this year and these names are in an earlier blog post.
There has now been a link established between Khumaga primary school here in Botswana and Lanercost and Hayton primary schools in the UK. This link allows children from each of the schools to write letters and learn more about each others country, schooling and culture. This link continues to grow and I have recently delivered the second round of letters from children at Lanercost and Hayton to their pen-friends in Khumaga. These letters have only been recently delivered as the school has recently had their winter holiday for 5 weeks.
When I first visited Khumaga School in November last year and spoke to Mma Tshube, the deputy head, I asked her what she thought the school was short of; her reply was reading books for the school children. Earlier this year on March 5th, world book day, as well as dressing up as their favourite fictional character, the children of Lanercost and Hayton primary schools took some of their reading books into school with them. These books were being collected so that they could be sent to their new pen friends in Khumaga Primary School in Botswana and the response from all of the children and their parents was staggering.
On the 18th of September I took 6 large boxes of books of all shapes and sizes into Khumaga School. These books, along with 1 football and 1 volleyball (In a recent volleyball tournament Khumaga finished 3rd in their age group for the whole of Botswana) which had been bought with a donation from the Lanercost PTA, were delivered to Mma Tshube who was lost for words.
Mma Tshube and another teacher Mr Olephile then proceeded to look through the boxes of books before calling on some of the children to come and have a look. Mma Tshube found a book of bedtime stories and said that she was going to read them to her children, who are pupils at Khumaga, that night. Mr Olephile, the volleyball coach, didn’t really know where to start as there were so many books to look at. While some of the children were initially more attracted to the football and volleyball, the remainder began to look through the books with some enthusiasm before they hdd to go back to their lessons.
The books have now been safely placed into the small school library and are there for the children and teachers to use. I know that they are already proving to be a great resource for them all.
Before I left the UK for Botswana in mid-March I was amazed at the volume of books that had been collected while also wondering how we were going to be able to get all of the books to Botswana. This problem was solved for us by Mr Solomon Seeco of the Botswana High Commission in London. Mr Seeco generously offered his assistance, and the use of a container, in order to ship the books from the UK to Botswana. It would have taken much longer to get the books to Botswana without Mr Seeco’s help.
Once the books reached Botswana I then needed to get them from Gaborone, in the south-east, to Maun, in the north-west, where I am based and near to Khumaga. This problem was resolved for me by Desert and Delta Safaris, and in particular Adrienne Esterhuyse, who organised for the books to be transported to Maun for which I am very grateful.
Due to the sheer volume of books which were donated I decided that it would be good to pass on a few of the books to other places. Accordingly I took one box of books to Moreomaoto primary school. Moreomaoto is another local village to the Makgadikgadi and at around 100 pupils is less than half the size of Khumaga primary school. The books were gratefully received by the deputy head and some of the other teachers. We left all of the teachers busily looking through the books – I think the children will have spent the rest of the day reading books picked out for them by their teachers!! One additional box of books was returned to Desert and Delta Safaris to pass on to Love Botswana, an outreach program for local children in Maun.
If you would like to see some pictures of the books being delivered to the schools then please visit my website gallery at: http://www.zebramigration.org/gallery/
Mma Tshube has asked me to thank everyone who donated any books and to those people who have made the delivery of the books logistically possible. On behalf of all of the children at Khumaga and Moreomaoto primary schools and Love Botswana in Maun I would like to say thank you to all the children (and parents) who generously contributed their books. Thank you also to Alison and Sue, the headteachers of Lanercost and Hayton respectively, as well as all of the other teachers who have taken such an interest, and encouraged the interest of their pupils, in both the letter writing exchange and the collection of books. I would also like to thank my parents who have been so helpful in co-ordinating things in the UK as well as Solomon Seeco and Adrienne Esterhuyse.
As for the main reason why I am here in Botswana, things are still going very well with the project. I will write another blog soon to update you all in more detail. Most collared zebra’s had recently migrated west as the surface waterholes to the east of the Makgadikgadi began to dry up. However, it has just been raining again and any zebra which had migrated west has now gone east again. This is a very strange year in Botswana but the zebra should benefit by having access to the grazing areas in the east of the park for much longer than normal. I will write a more detailed update on the zebra’s and fieldwork shortly.
As ever, if you have any questions or comments then please feel free to contact me via the blog or via email on email@example.com.
Till next time,