On 30 November 2023 a select group of Natural Resource Management students graduated at the Southern African Wildlife College, following the final student dinner the night before.  

Fitting in with the theme “Emerging Leaders” the 25 students represented four countries, namely Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia with only one student graduating in absentia. We applaud those students and their organisations who travelled from afar to attend this wonderful occasion at the College. 

Delivering the keynote address was Prof. Christo Fabricius, a Director on the SAWC Board, WWF-SA Trustee and Prof Emeritus Nelson Mandela University, who addressed the students specifically on the task that lay ahead.   

The need to combine efforts to ensure vital ecological processes and the protection of threatened species remains critical given the pressure our planet faces. 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 key. As the custodians of our natural resources and protected areas the graduates of the College are responsible for ensuring those spaces are managed inclusively, holistically and responsibly. 

In addressing his fellow graduates, the College CEO and Vice Chancellor, Members of the Board of Directors, College staff, donors, conservation organisation representatives and other guests, the Student Representative Council President Muzi Machabe from Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) said:  

“I am originally from the next village here called Welverdiend. I have been employed as a Senior Field Ranger since 2014, based at Manyeleti Nature Reserve. What I have realized is that achievements and excellence have nothing to do with personal circumstances or a country’s level of economic status but comes out of hard work. This was perfectly illustrated when all Africans were crowned champions as a result of the Springbok/ MABOKOBOKO winning the 2023 rugby world cup. This achievement records South Africa as the only country in the world to have won the Rugby World Cup four times – although they have participated in fewer tournaments. In addition to this, they are the only rugby team to have won every World Cup final they have played. And this despite the fact that a number of players come from impoverished backgrounds. Furthermore, in following my own dreams and career path I have progressed from working in the hospitality department at the College to working at the “coal face”of conservation. 

In addressing his fellow graduates, he said, “You have got to dream big but remember a dream does not become reality through magic, it takes sweat, determination, hard work and confidence in yourself. Every one of us has worked tirelessly and has shown continuous resilience and commitment day and night, even during holidays and weekends. And I can proudly say that this is paying off today. Let this be a reminder that great achievements lie ahead of us. It doesn’t stop or end here but let this be the beginning or continuation of your conservation dream. 

For the College, 2023 was a year of revival following the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic having trained a record number of students across all its training programmes. Indicative of the support for the Natural Resource Management programmes, there has been a request to run both the NQF Level 5 National Occupation Certificate: Natural Resource Management; Terrestrial and the NQF Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Natural Resource Management, Transfrontier Conservation Management. The latter to be introduced again whilst we await accreditation on the intended three-year Applied Diploma in Natural Resource Management.  

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

2023 Academic year Award winners: (Left to right): WWF-SA Award – Best Student: South Africa – Muzi Machabe, Merit Award for Best Student Overall – Mike Arthur Polela, , Rosie Sturgis Award – Most Improved Student – Mackson Swazini Nyathi, Best Protected Area Management Student – Twambi Chimimba.

Three students were also awarded the prestigious Southern African Wildlife College Trust Scholarship Awards to continue onto the Advanced Certificate in Natural Resource Management, Transfrontier Conservation Management in 2024. Awarded on merit, the scholarship recipients included Muzi Machabe Mpumalanga Parks & Tourism Agency, Mike Arthur Polela – African Parks, Malawi and Twambi Chimimba – Department of National Parks & Wildlife, Malawi 

We wish all our students well as they embark on their new 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 realized.  Here thanks must go to the Southern African Wildlife College Trust managed by WWF-SA, Ball Family Foundation, Chamberlain Foundation Trust, Fondation Segré, Investec Rhino Lifeline, KfW Stiftung, and South African Bulk Terminals as well as 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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