Entering northern Botswana from Zambia by crossing the Zambesi River is a magical experience. Bags are transferred to the aluminium dinghy and the motorboat roars into action. Halfway across the river – the point where Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe meet – mobile phones join in a cacophony of international competition.
When we reached the other side, we headed for Kasane, the tourist capital of Chobe National Park. The town pathways and roadsides are shared with warthogs and, at twilight, elephants come into town looking for food – especially the fruit of the marula tree.
The park is world famous for its huge elephant population but the elephants often struggle to find food, sometimes wandering too far from water and dying in their attempt to return. Lions begin stalking through the long grass at twilight, making impala very nervous.
Kasane Primary School has been a training hub for teachers taking part in the African Children’s Stories program from many surrounding schools. Pandamatenga Primary School, an hour’s drive from Kasane, is located in the middle of dense lion country. The drive there is like a safari, with elephants crossing the road, giraffe watching shyly and barely camouflaged in the trees, and gambolling monkeys.
The program promotes involvement between parents and dikgosi (chiefs), with many stories focusing on village life, love for country, the environment and the amazing animals, with their associated myths and legends. Over 30 schools are involved in the program, and the Foundation has published five collections from Botswana. The Honourable Dr Unity Dow, Minister of Education and Skills Development, Republic of Botswana has been a wonderful advocate. In the Jubilee Collection she wrote:
As we celebrate the Republic of Botswana’s 50th Anniversary of Independence, may I present this special edition of African Children’s Stories. These stories were written by primary school children, reflecting the power of their imagination, while preserving the tradition of storytelling as they share their pride and love for this great nation.
Education is highly valued, and Kemofitlhetse Letshwenyo from Pandamatenga Primary School celebrated his gratitude when he wrote:
Education is like a strong tree planted in good soil.