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Equus Waterberg Fund

It's still called the "undiscovered" Waterberg region of South Africa. It is remote (though only three hours from Johannesburg), sparsely populated, and quite beautiful with its rugged mountains, water courses, and wildlife. It is also very poor.

The Waterberg's employment base is traditionally on farms – predominantly cattle and tobacco. Tourism is an increasing source of employment, at places such as horse safaris, luxury lodges on large "Big Five" reserves, bush camps in wilderness areas, game farms, and more.

For most of its history, the Waterberg's poor have suffered from an indifferent education system. Worse, children of farm workers who lived on the farm (the great majority) had no schools at all. Though farm schools were established by the farmer expressly for the workers' children, the quality of education was poor and the facilities and equipment were quite minimal.

Meetsetshehla Secondary School was one such farm school, established in 1986 adjacent to the town of Vaalwater, ultimately serving children who received their primary education at several other farm schools in the Waterberg. Meetsetshehla has gone through a lot of growing pains, not only from the original few students and classrooms to the current enrolment of 650 students on a lively campus, but also from an uneasy relationship with the national and provincial education authorities to a state-aided, independent school with a dedicated staff and teachers providing a high standard of education to a very disadvantaged community. School graduation rates have improved dramatically, in recent years at 99% or 100%, much, much higher than South Africa national and Limpopo Province averages. The school enjoys active support from the Waterberg community.

In 1997, the Northern Education Trust (NET) was established to receive donations exclusively for Meetsetshehla. The NET has contributed to the financing of the construction of new buildings, the upgrading of existing buildings, and the purchase of equipment for a variety of specialty classes, such as computers and catering, both of which reflect the nature of job opportunities in the Waterberg and indeed the country.

Too often, however, without additional skills, graduates face menial jobs, or more likely, no jobs at all. No matter how determined, ambitious, and academically able students may be, there are simply limited resources available to continue their education.

In 2004, Equus Horse Safaris created the Equus Waterberg Fund to raise money to assist needy and worthy Meetsetshehla students to continue their education at tertiary and university levels. In the first two years, the Fund solicited donations from guests at Equus Horse Safaris. Since 2006, the Fund has sought donations from friends and family in the US, and a few in South Africa.

Meetsetshehla has established a committee of four (including the Principal and John Miller from Equus) to review student applications for assistance. The criteria for selection include financial need, academic success, and determination and desire. The Fund covers as much of students’ expenses as possible, enough to encourage their enrolment in a university or technical school.

In the last few years we have provided support to students studying mechanical engineering, criminology, electrical engineering, information technology, accounting, medicine, food technology and water care.

If you would like to learn more, or to contribute, please contact me at