At Great Plains we also understand that thriving conservation programs are only possible when communities living alongside the wildlife and protected areas are afforded opportunities to learn, interact, and benefit from these conserved areas. Based on this, the Great Plains Foundation has been working on launching an innovative initiative called the Great Plains Academy, which aims to provide personal and community enrichment opportunities for individuals in northern Botswana. The role of the Academy is to tackle the lack of accessible, quality educational opportunities for young people in the area. These enrichment opportunities will be facilitated through vocational training and supplemental education with a conservation and tourism focus. The goals of the Academy are to improve participants’ understanding of their local environment and wildlife, promote conservation and sustainable land management practices, and invest in the skill and capacity of the local community and workforce.
The planning and building stages of the Academy have been underway over the last few months and it is with great excitement that the dream has been realized and the first training facility was opened over the last week. We held a small opening ceremony on the 13th of October to celebrate the completion of the first phase of construction of the Great Plains Academy in Seronga, Northern Botswana.
Dignitaries and special guests included Kgosi Maeze who welcomed the attendees to Seronga and we were honoured to have the Deputy District Commissioner, Mr. Waloka, hand over the Training Center during the ribbon-cutting ceremony to The Chairman of the Okavango Community Trust (OCT) Board, who accepted the building on behalf of the OCT community. Those present to witness the occasion included the Dikgosi from the OCT region, Councilors, Village Development Committee, and VET representatives as well as our Great Plains Solar Mamas. The Great Plains Solar Mamas are nine ladies from the OCT region who travelled to the Barefoot College in India for six months to learn about solar technology and entrepreneurial skills to bring back to their communities, another Great Plains Foundation initiative.
“Earlier this week we opened a humble training facility which will eventually form part of the Great Plains Academy. We were joined by enthusiastic community members and officials to celebrate the opening of this facility. The location of this site is central to a number of villages between Mohembo (on the Namibian border) and Gudigwa. The training facility, and later the Academy, will play a vital role in progressing the careers of the youths of these villages. The three days I spent in this area this week highlighted to me the enthusiasm for all to learn. With training and education, the door opens for so many opportunities and community involvement in the tourism industry of Botswana.” Mr. Dorian Hoy, Managing Director of Great Plains Conservation – Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Mr. Dorian Hoy explained that the intention of the building was to facilitate relevant, accessible, and free-of-charge training workshops to the residents of the Okavango Community Trust villages. He emphasized the importance of education and highlighted the talent of the youth in the community and hoped that one day a child who receives training at this centre will be standing in his shoes as the Managing Director of Great Plains. Mr. Bruce Petty, General Manager of Great Plains, echoed these sentiments and invited Mr. Ben Gothusamang, an employee at Duba Plains Camp, to read a poem he had penned for the occasion on the importance of education.
“Education is the pillar of our independence. It will lead us to find a meaningful purpose in life. So let’s get educated while we still have a chance and good opportunity because it is light. We are nothing without education. Education must be our daily bread. I see a bright future due to education. Education is the pillar of our lives, by just looking at our nation I see a bright future due to education. Education brightens our faces and our minds because it is the most powerful weapon.” Mr. Ben Gothusamang.
As part of the opening of the first phase of the Academy, there were a series of training sessions that started in the afternoon of the 13th of October following on to the 14th of October. The Okavango Community Trust, Village Development Committee, and Ngambao Junior Secondary School were invited to send participants to attend training on Professional CV writing and Interview skills. The workshop was facilitated by Ros Hoy from “The People Tree” who has vast experience working in Human Resources. She was able to assist a total of 40 participants across the various sessions throughout the week in understanding how to showcase their skills through their Curriculum Vitae as well as in an interview setting so that they are equipped to land their dream job. The next scheduled training will be on the development of small business enterprises.
“We plan to host training on a variety of different topics that will be inclusive of all members of the community. We are blessed that we are able to move forward on this project during these uncertain times thanks to the assistance of the Great Plains Foundation and the generosity of our guests.” Tracey Taylor, Environmental Manager.
This is just the beginning of the wider dream of the Academy which hopes to grow and reach further young adults in reaching their potential and, in turn, growing the opportunities in these communities.