In 2013, one of the co-founders of Ngoko Safaris, Benson Siyawareva, got involved with the Ntabayengwe community and realized that many children were not attending school. Along with his business partner, Fiona Thompson, Benson began working with the community on an ambitious plan to build a primary school in the local area, aiming to break the cycle of poverty through the power of education.
The reasons for the high levels of poverty in this area are complex. The communities around Lesedi were relocated in colonial times and now survive by cattle raising and limited subsistence farming on the infertile Kalahari Sand soils. Human-wildlife conflict is rife as the area is adjacent to the Zambezi National Park and Jafuta Forest, so cattle are often taken by lions.
The communities are poorly educated, partly due to the lack of a local school. When they did attend school, children were regularly excluded due to non-payment of school fees but also parents often preferred children to remain at home to help with household chores. There were few positive role models and aspiration levels were low. Alcohol dependence was an issue, with some households engaged in the illegal moonshine business. Many families are dealing with ill health, including HIV and AIDS.
Lesedi Primary School
Having taken the decision to build a primary school, we started by constructing a simple structure to offer classes to pre-school children, with the initial intake of kids, our “pioneer” students, enrolling in 2014.
Just six years later, Lesedi Primary School now teaches two Early Childhood Development (ECD) classes, plus Grades 1-7, to over 250 pupils. Our first pupils will complete their primary education at the end of 2021. Having given the children hope and encouraged them to dream, it would be wrong to abandon them after primary school, so our intention is to build a secondary school at Lesedi. We recognize that not all the children will excel academically, so we are also planning to offer vocational training.
Soon after starting this project, it became apparent that healthcare was also a huge issue for the communities in this area. With the nearest clinic 28km from Lesedi, medical treatment was not an option for many families. The vast majority of the Lesedi pupils had never seen a doctor, despite some having serious medical conditions. Thanks to the incredible generosity of our supporters, we were able to build Lesedi Clinic in 2019. The clinic includes male and female wards, maternity/delivery rooms, pharmacy and consultation rooms. We also built an expectant mothers' cottage, providing accommodation for women during the final stages of pregnancy and ensuring they give birth at the clinic rather than in their rural homes.
We now have a team of 21 teachers, nurses and support staff doing an incredible job transforming and saving lives at Lesedi. Our Team page includes photos of most of these wonderful individuals, all of whom work tirelessly on a daily basis to not only educate our students but also monitor their welfare, nurture them and encourage their ambitions and dreams.
Lesedi is totally reliant on private donations and our achievements to date have only been possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters. Please consider making a donation or sponsoring a child. 100% of each donation we receive is spent in full on the project, making a difference where it is needed most. If you are in the area it is also possible to visit Lesedi. Please contact us if you are interesting in supporting us or arranging a visit.