28 September 2015

Botswana: Moapare Relishes Moment As U.S Beckons

Ghanzi — Just how did a young man born and bred in the world's largest game reserve overcome all realistic obstacles to being the country's top most achiever in the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education?

His is a story of how the audacity of hope yields immeasurable results. Ketelelo Moapare, a mosarwa young man is now a beneficiary of the prestigious Mastercard Foundation and is destined to study at Michigan State University in the United States of America.

Ethnically he is of a San subgroup called Gana-Khoi, traditionally fulltime hunters and gatherers who reside in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

Moapare was born in Mothomelo, a small locality inside the CKGR but now has a permanent family home in New Xade after his family was relocated from the park in 1997. He lost his mother at an infant age at a time when there were no medical facilities nearby except a mobile clinic in Mothomelo.

The small boy was then raised up by his grandmother until they moved to Xade (now called Old Xade) where there was a clinic and a primary school.

Moapare never had sight of his father who apparently passed on in 1994.

In 1997, government relocated CKGR residents from the park to a new settlement called New Xade in a fashion that attracted huge international criticism plus an unpopular law suit. It was at New Xade that Moapare started primary school while at the same trying to adjust to the new culture and environment of routine school attendance.

At age 13 when he was doing standard Six he met Peace Corp volunteers Edward Pettitt and Seema Patel who set up the first community library in New Xade.

With help of collecting donated books from the US, the African Library Project (USA based NGO) was able to ship books to set up the library.

Moapare concedes the process was long and tedious, but it gave him a sense of ownership of the library.

"Instead of being resigned to a future of illiteracy, I helped bring the first-ever community library to my village.

The library became my new favorite place. I was in the library reading and writing English so I could understand the language better. I did this on every school break or whenever I had free time."

The inception of the library was a major development in the young boy's life since it did not only improve him academically but it was a gate way to the outside world.

He began reading about the world and African politics to be a well-rounded student, Moapare says. He sat for his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in 2007 and his overall grade was a second class.

After primary school, he became a boarder at Itekeng Junior Secondary School where he received 12 excellence certificates in different codes from integrated science, design and technology, physical education and mathematics.

He was set for more glory, being the best student in JCE science for Ghantsi region in 2010. He obtained an first class in JCE in 2010. Moapare moved to Ghanzi Senior Secondary School and ultimately scored a maximum possible of 48 points in BGCSE examinations.

He went on to receive the Top Achiever Scholarship from the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) which enabled him to complete his A Levels at the prestigious Maru-a-Pula English medium private school.

During his stay at Maru-a-Pula he was engaged in community service activities, he together with other Top Achievers scholars co-founded a charitable project called "Ride for Life Botswana" in 2014.

The same year, four scholars rode their bikes from Gaborone to Pilikwe.

They travelled about 300 kilometres in order to raise funds to build a house for a child living with disability in Pilikwe.

"The inaugural ride raised P53 500 which will be used to construct a house for the child in question so she may be given better care in the comfort of her house.

In light of the success of this initial effort, we have sought to make this an annual event, albeit with different groups of riders each year. I am informed the construction of the house in Pilikwe has been started and in good progress," Moapare says.

In May 2015 Moapare together with five other scholars rode their bikes from Gaborone to Kaudwane, in Kweneng to raise funds to also build a house for a disabled child in Kaudwane.

They travelled a total distance of about 220km and more than half of this journey was on sandy-gravel road. The 2015 funds are still being collected. Moapare says their projects could have not been possible without the help and collaboration with Ms Caroline Desai, the CEO of AKD group.

In his last semester of study at Maru-a-Pula school, Moapare applied to Michigan State University for Civil Engineering and was admitted.

He also made a separate scholarship application at Michigan State University for MasterCard Foundation Scholarship which he was also successful in obtaining.

"Botswana has made significant strides in infrastructure and human development since independence in 1966, but it still has its share of challenges.

Currently, the country is facing an energy crisis, a shortage of potable water, and a lack of investment in research and development - challenges which have been compounded by one of Africa's worst HIV/AIDS epidemics.

With a degree in engineering, I will be able to return to Botswana and use my expertise to help address some of these challenges," Moapare says.

Moapare says he is pained by the fact that Botswana has more than 200 billion tons of coal, yet still has a shortage of electricity and he hopes with trained engineers this will change.

Botswana could find ways to sustainably use its resources to produce sufficient electricity for local consumption as well as for export. He also hopes Botswana could even convert its coal to liquid form to produce oil.

"Eventually, I would like to start my own engineering company to invest in areas of research and development, forming strategic partnerships with local and international institutions.

Using these partnerships, I hope to foster commercialization of new technologies and provide seed funding for promising research.

I also plan to share my knowledge with other professionals and hopefully inspire Botswana's next generation of engineers," an enthusiastic Moapare says.

Moapare says there is no doubt that Basarwa are the worst hit by poverty and overdependence on government handouts and he is committed to work with non-governmental organization for economic empowerment of his community.

"Being from a so called minority group is a challenge particularly if you are a Mosarwa.

Growing up I encountered discrimination from classmates and teachers in school. For instance, we were punished at primary school for speaking our click language. Despite these challenges, I was determined to use education as a platform to level the playing field," he says.

"I have continuously used this opportunity to tell other students about my tribe and our way of life; to show them that we too, are people who have something worth sharing. I continue to study hard and use every opportunity to promote cultural tolerance in the hope that Botswana will unite in diversity," says Moapare.

Moapare says his academic prowess has been inspired by the fact that he grew up an orphan, in an economically famished family from a marginalised ethnic group.

He says that the only tool to empower himself was to embrace education, something he wishes the other san youth could use their personal stories to inspire others.

He also notes that he long wanted to go study in the US as far back as 2007 when the Americans helped to build a library in New Xade. Moapare says all these would have been impossible without the enormous support he received from his family, friends and the Remote Areas Development Programme office.

Source : BOPA

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