Maria and Sandra’s unheralded commitment for education in Khwai
The Maria Ramsden Learning Centre located in Khwai Village opened doors in 2019 to afford kids a chance of a much needed Pre-school education.
The pre-school was founded by two women from Maun; late Maria Ramsden whom the school is named and her friend Sandra Naledi Rubins.
The duo started working with Khwai community in 2016 and they immediately identified a need for a pre-school in Khwai, a wildlife rich remote village, located on the fringes of Moremi Game Reserve .
Unfortunately, Maria Remsden later passed on leaving her co-founding friend; Sandra Rubins to take care of the affairs.
Sandra Rubins told Okavango Express: “ In 2016 there was no school in Khwai. Children from 1-5 years stayed idle with their parents at home due to lack of a pre-school. Once children reached a school going age, had to be transported away from their parents almost 300 kilometres to Kareng Remote Area Dwellers Hostels. This caused high drop-out levels as children despised schooling.”
Sandra and Maria formed a charity organization called Naletsana, a name which is an acronym for their names, to raise funds to start a pre-school in Khwai.
Khwai Village Development Committee under the leadership of Face Sango at the time availed an abandoned room which the two women decided to transform in to a classroom.
But there was a problem as they did not have the funds to maintain the space let alone starting the school.
So, Ramsden and Rubins approached a Canadian charity organization called LAMB and the local Bush Ways Safaris to solicit funds to construct school. LAMB provided limited funding while Bush Ways used their connections to seek donations for thatching and solar electrification of the classroom. So the rest became history…
In 2019 Khwai Learning Centre opened its doors with just one teacher to attend to all the students. Rubins stated : “ shortly we realised that combining children of different ages in to one classroom was problematic so we divided the children by age groups and introduced shifts”
Rubins explained: “ After opening we encountered another problem. There was no food for the children. Fortunately in 2018 I got a job at Khwai Private Reserve as a relief manager. I asked KPR to partner with us. KPR pledged P100 000 annually as funding for paying the teacher and for feeding. But, still, the money wasn’t enough so we could only afford to feed the children instant porridge in a day.”
Shortly after the school opened in 2019, Maria Ramsden one of the school founders passed away and her co-founder Rubins decided to change the name from Khwai Play Group to Maria Ramsden Learning Centre in her friends honour.
Following the death of Ramsden, Rubins continued to push for more funding and resources to empower children in Khwai. “ I approached African Bush Camps (ABC) another tourism company operating in Khwai to assist in feeding the children. ABC agreed and provided funding for renovation of an extra class room.”
There was another abandoned structure which the VDC again allowed Rubins to transform in to a second classroom, Kitchen, Library and a storeroom. ABC also provided funding for lunch which meant kids were now fed porridge for breakfast and cooked lunch, fruit and juice .From these funding a second teacher, a cook and security guard were hired.
Soon the Safari companies operating in Khwai included the school in their village tours they regularly took their international tourists. Recently a visiting tourist who is member of Rotary Club in the United States was part of this tour and fell in love with the school. “ He was part of tourist group brought to our school. Following this he contacted me asking me how they could help at the school. I suggested a vegetable garden which they funded. We recently started this vegetable garden through which we are teaching children on sustainable skills of growing vegetables in an area teeming with wildlife “