This past week saw an unprecedented 300 people attending the graduation of the Southern African Wildlife College’s Natural Resource Management students, and this with a limitation on numbers. 

Fitting in with the theme “Against all Odds”, the College hosted two graduation ceremonies on 30 November and 1 December respectively. This meant that the 2020 and 2021 students who missed out on their formal graduation ceremony as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic could also finally don their gown and caps on 1 December, with the Classes of 2022 graduating on 30 November. And what an occasion it was!

Graduating class of 2022.

The College’s role in developing critical management capacity for protected areas within the SADC region through a new era of inclusive conservation leadership is critical and resilience was a word often used during both graduations. Underpinned during the keynote addresses by Dr Joseph Okori, the College’s new Executive Manager: Business Operations and by Property Mokoena, Acting CEO of South African National Parks, this also became the watchword for the College during the 2020 and 2021 Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing year when things were again being normalized. 

Property Mokoena, Acting CEO of South African National Parks. 

Dr Joseph Okori, Executive Manager: Business Operations of SAWC.

In addressing their fellow graduates, the College CEO and Vice Chancellor Theresa Sowry, Members of the Board of Directors, College staff, donors, conservation organisation representatives and other guests, the two Student Representative Council Presidents Amukelani Mashele from Addo Elephant National Park (2022) and Citty Mashele from the Kruger National Park (2021) said:

 “Dropping out may be a difficult decision but it is not always a bad one because as I have learnt it can lead you to your destiny,” said Amukelani Mashele. “If I hadn’t dropped out of Mopani FET College I would never have found my way into conservation and enrolled for a Natural Resource Guardianship NQF Level 2 course funded by the Jobs Fund. I was lucky, I found what I loved to do.”

“This enabled me to start working in the Kruger National Park when I was 22. We worked hard, and when I saw a fallen rhino for the first time, my pain and anger was deep as it was as if I had lost a loved one.  What I learnt was that sometimes you will lose people, sometime people will turn and that sometimes life is going to knock you, but don’t lose faith, resilience is key. What I have accomplished now having been afforded the opportunity to go on to do the Advanced Certificate in Nature Conservation: Tranfrontier Conservation Management at NFQ Level 6 is for me a reminder. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was digging deep knowing that I loved what I did. The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle regardless of the odds.”

Said Citty Mashele, “Soldier on, the battle is not yet over. Always aim high because the sky is not the limit. Go and respect those who were not privileged to find this favourable opportunity to study at the SAWC. The formula to success lies in one’s flexibility. Be a leader as well as a follower. Understand and accept positive criticism with an open mind, then your knowledge horizon will definitely continue to widen.”

“For us the year 2020 was a catastrophic period when covid-19 hit the entire world, and SA was not in isolation. University and college students in both public and private leaning institutions were affected by closures and social distancing requirements with some international students finding themselves living in foreign countries with limited social and economic support. Indeed, it was a long academic journey full of ups and downs, which extended into 2021. However, through resilience and against all odds – online and otherwise – we conquered the assignments and defeated the exams and can stand here as graduates today.”

The 2022 Advanced and National Certificate students hailed from six different countries including Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe with six student graduating in absentia. The 2020/2021 students came from across South Africa as well as from the DRC, Namibia and Malawi to graduate, with 12 students graduating in absentia. We applaud those students who were able to travel from afar to attend this wonderful occasion at the College. 

2022 Academic Year Award Winners

During the ceremony a number students were also honoured by way of the following awards:

2022 Academic year

NQF 5:  National Occupational Certificate: Natural Resource Management: Terrestrial

Award

Name of Student

Rosie Sturgis Award - Most Improved Student

Crespo Acàcio Sumbane – Peace Parks - Banhine National Park, Mozambique

Most Resourceful Student/s

John Brooks – SANParks - Karoo National Park, & Penaune Steve Kasaona - Ministry of Environment, Forest and Tourism, Opuwo Reserve, Namibia

Best Protected Area Management Student

Robert Masango – MTPA,  Songimvelo Nature Reserve, South Africa

Hans Hoheisen Award - Best Female Student

Yolanta Matongo –  Department of National Parks & Wildlife -  Mazabuka Park Office, Zambia

The late Anton Mzimba Award – Most committed student (new award sponsored by GCC)

Welkom Hlakuvana Masukume - Wamafari Emclave, Zimbabwe

WWF Award Overall Best Student NQF 5

Billiat Zidana – African Parks - Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi

NQF 6: Natural Resource Management: Transfrontier Conservation Management 

ABSA Award - Best Financial Management Student

Tumelo Alpheus Nkadimeng - MTPA, Verloren Valei Nature Reserve, South Africa

Friends of African Wildlife Award - Best Biodiversity Management Student

Nania Mwale - Department of National Parks & Wildlife, Zambia

The late Ernest Mokganedi Award - Best TFCA Student

Bridgeman Zulu - SANParks, Kruger National Park, South Africa

WWF Best South African Student

Tumelo Alpheus Nkadimeng - MTPA, Verloren Valei Nature Reserve, South Africa

WWF Award Overall Best Student NQF 6

Nania Mwale - Department of National Parks & Wildlife, Zambia

2020 / 2021 Academic Year Award Winners

2020/2021 Academic year

NQF 5:  National Occupational Certificate: Natural Resource Management: Terrestrial

Award

Name of Student

Rosie Sturgis Award - Most Improved Student

Pascal Anguez Adrio – African Parks, DRC

SAWC - Best Animal Management Studies Student

Happy Hezekiel Mangena – Wits Rural, South Africa

Hans Hoheisen Award - Best Female Student

Shandukani Lucy Moloko – LEDET – Nzhelele Dam Nature Reserve, South Africa

WWF Award Overall Best Student NQF 5

Rastah Nkuna – SANParks Kruger National Park

NQF 6: Natural Resource Management: Transfrontier Conservation Management 

ABSA Award - Best Financial Management Student

Carl-Zon-Zack Magielies – Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency – Bavianskloof Reserve, South Africa

Friends of African Wildlife Award - Best Biodiversity Management Student

Maurtan Fleur – SANParks – Augrabies Falls, South Africa

The late Ernest Mokganedi Award - Best TFCA Student

Karin Venessa Isaacs – SANParks – Augrabies Falls, South Africa

WWF Award Overall Best Student NQF 6

Carl-Zon-Zack Magielies – Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency – Bavianskloof Reserve, South Africa

We wish all our students and all our classes of of 2020, 2021 and 2022 well as they embark on their journeys back at their respective parks across Africa to help usher in a new era in conservation. To our donors who made their studies possible, we say a huge thank you as without you their studies would not have been realised.  And here special thanks must once again to Friends of African Wildlife, our Zurich based funding partner, which each year sponsors a record number of student bursaries and who again joined us to celebrate the students’ achievements.

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