Serengeti — Twenty three year-old Ryoba Ketende hails from Bonchugu village in Serengeti District. In this village, young men often engage in poaching an outlawed activity whose penalty is a jail term if one is caught and charged in a court of law.
The poachers target grazers including gazelle, eland, waterbuck, elephant among many others in the famous Serengeti National park, a great tourist destination and home to a diversity of animals. Today, however, young Ryoba is a different person, full of great ideas that can inspire the youth to value education as the right path to their future. Ryoba is a waiter at Sasakwa, one of the country’s best luxurious lodges operated by Singita Grumeti Reserves.
The young man is where he is because of a scholarship scheme initiated by Singita Grumeti Fund (SGF) several years ago. “The most important thing is that I’m now an educated person. I would have been a poacher or in jail due to the harsh environment in my home village of Bonchugu,” Ryoba said in an interview with the ‘Daily News’ last week.
In 2012, Ryoba was awarded a scholarship by SGF to study Basic Hotel Management at a college in Arusha after he was endorsed by Bonchugu village government leaders to benefit from the scholarship programme. “I received this information that Singita Grumeti was providing scholarships through the village government. There were 28 of us who applied but only two were successful in the interview. We were both awarded the scholarship and went to the same college in Arusha,” he narrated.
“This was after completing Form Four in 2011. I could not go to college as my parents were not able to support me. But thank God I was lucky to get the Singita Grumeti scholarship,” Ryoba added. Before making it to Sasakwa lodge, Ryoba was employed at Sabayaya staff camp where workers of Singita Grumeti take their meals. He later went for further practical sessions at Mara and Mara River Tented Camp which is also managed by Singita Grumeti.
Mr Richard Ndaskoi, the Singita Grumeti Fund Community Outreach Programme Manager said for one to work at Singita Grumeti lodges he or she has to undergo extensive training that involves frequent practical sessions to meet the set standards “There is no compromise on quality of service at Singita Grumeti lodges and there is in-house training which do not end and good thing is that the training is done through practical,” Mr Ndaskoi told the ‘Daily News’.
Dedicated to environmentally conscious hospitality, sustainable conservation and the empowerment of local communities, Singita , meaning “place of miracles,” was founded in 1993 with a single lodge in South Africa, but now is the custodian of a million acres of land and manages 12 lodges and camps across Africa.
Singita Grumeti in Tanzania operates Singita Sasakwa Lodge, Faru Faru Lodge, Sabora Tented Camp, Explore, Serengeti House all located in the Grumeti reserves, and Mara River Tented Camp located in the Lamai triangle.
Singita Grumeti Fund is a sister organisation of Singita Grumeti Reserves which operates and manages Singita’s conservation and community projects across the 350,000 acres of Singita Grumeti, making a difference in the lives of people living and working in and around the reserves. Mwita Gideon Matiko(26), another beneficiary of the scholarship scheme also from Bonchugu in Serengeti District village says the presence of Singita Grumeti had greatly helped to transform lives of local villages. “I finished my ‘O’Level secondary education in 2011, I stayed at home without any plan because I had no body to help me move forward .
I was only helped by Singita Grumeti to study basic hotel management,” Mwita who also hails from a very lowincome family said. As it was the case with Ryoba, Mwita was employed by Singita Grumeti and stationed at Mara River Tented Camp where he is working as a house keeper to date.
“I have been with Singita for two years working at Mara River Tented Camp and my life has real changed. Singita Grumeti is not only helping on education but they are supporting on health, water and environmental conservation,” Mwita pointed out.
On his side Ryoba said he currently supports his two siblings who are in secondary schools with basic requirements. “Before I got employment, life was real hard at home but now things have changed and my parents are also happy and they had finally realised that education is an import thing,” Ryoba said adding that his future plan is to go for further studies and later become a tour guide.
Ms Maimuna Hassan (26) from Natta, one of the nearest villages to Singita Grumeti operational areas said she started benefiting from the Singita Grumeti Fund scholarship programme since 2004 when she joined Form One at Natta secondary until she completed Form IV and later joined Musoma Utalii College under the same sponsor. Ms Maimuna said she recently got a short time employment at Singita Grumeti Fund and saw a difference in her life.
“I had worked as a housekeeper at Makundusi in Singita Grumeti for three months but still I have seen big changes in my life,” Ms Maimuna now a mother of two children said.
According to the Singita Grumeti Fund Outreach Programme Manager, Mr Richard Ndaskoi the scholarships are provided without any discrimination to young men and women interested to achieve their educational dreams in 21 villages of Serengeti and Bunda districts.
He said the scholarship scheme budget and the number of beneficiaries have been going up each year. “For example the budget for the scholarship had increased from 50 ml- in 2009 to 106 in 2015,” Mr Ndaskoi revealed.
The beneficiaries are from the 21 villages but at university level we go beyond the 21 villages,” he said. Presently, he said 78 students are studying in vocational training centres, colleges, universities, primary and secondary schools.
Conservation, hospitality and tourism courses, Mr Ndaskoi said are given top priority when offering the scholarships. Large group, he said is supported to study various skills development courses a move that enable them to create self-employment or get employment in different organisations.
This means that one is not obliged to work at Singita Grumeti after completing his or her course. Some local bright local students, Mr Ndaskoi said have even been lucky to be sponsored to study in best performing private secondary schools found in Mara region.
Singita Grumeti Fund is further awarding scholarships to secondary and primary school teachers, he added. Recently Mara Regional Commissioner (RC) Dr Charles Mlingwa described Singita Grumeti as a truly development partner with outstanding performance on implementing social corporate responsibility (SCR) policy. “Singita Grumeti is a true development partner. Apart from education, they have helped in water sector, infrastructure and economic development.
They go beyond SCR and their work is of high quality,” the regional chief said shortly after he received 500 desks donated by Singita Grumeti to support the fifth government’s initiative aimed at ending shortage of desks in public schools. The desks were shared equally by Serengeti and Bunda districts.
Dr Mlingwa was also impressed to learn that the company is spending huge money on local procurement of vegetables, fruits and honey produced by local villagers.