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On Friday, 18 November 2011, 89 women from South Africa and seven from countries in the region graduated at the SA College for Tourism with a Certificate in Small Accommodation Establishment Operations, conferred by the School of Tourism, Hospitality & Sport of the Central University of Technology. The women were joined by 16 young men, the first graduates of the Tracker Academy, a training division of the College, which was established in 2010 with the view of providing training in the art of tracking animals in the wild, an indigenous skill in danger of becoming lost for future generations.
The graduation ceremony coincided with the 10th anniversary of the founding of the College by Dr Anton Rupert in the town of his birth, Graaff-Reinet. In her welcoming remarks Mrs Gaynor Rupert, Chairperson of the College Board of Directors, paid special tribute to her parents-in-law, Dr Anton Rupert and Mrs Huberte Rupert, whose shared dream of establishing the College as a stepping stone to a brighter future for the marginalized youth of rural South and southern Africa had made the day possible.
Mrs Rupert further paid tribute to the present donors of the College that comprise the South African Lottery Board, as principal donor, the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations, as the main foreign donor, the Swedish Postcode Foundation, Ms Pierriette Schlettwein of Switzerland, Alexander Forbes, the Koos and Rona Rupert Education Trust, the Rupert Nature Foundation, Mrs Irene Staehelin, world renowned anthropologist, Anglo American Chairman’s Fund, Tracker Network (Pty) Ltd and the many private individuals who participate in the Adopt a Student campaign.
Past donors who were thanked by Mrs Rupert included Remgro, Deutsche Bank, Mercedes Benz South Africa, the DG Murray Trust, Sanlam, The Capion Trust, SAB Miller, MB Technologies, Maskew Miller Longman and the Embassy of Finland.
Mrs Rupert also extended a special word of appreciation to Dr David Mabunda, CEO of SANParks, who annually offers thirty internships to graduates of the College.
Ms Khanyi DhlomoMs Khanyi Dhlomo, Managing Director of Ndalo Media which she founded in 2007, delivered the keynote address. Listed as one of 2011’s 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa by Forbes Magazine, she spoke of the need to empower youth, particularly those living in Africa. She encouraged the graduates to make the most of the opportunities available to young people with the necessary skills to shape their own futures, suggesting that they take with them a basket of tools that would ensure self-empowerment. She listed these tools as:
Ambition to fuel their development;
Determination to realise their potential and give the best in everything they did;
Solid and win-win relationships to succeed in life, careers and/or business;
Authenticity in the way they conceived and pursued their goals;
Compassion to raise others up with them and give back to society; Curiosity to further develop their minds;
Humour to avoid self-pity, prejudice, resentment, bitterness and self-entitlement; and finally
An awareness of spirit to nourish the soul and their interaction with God
Ms Dhlomo was followed by Mrs Barbara Pudel, a long-standing friend of the College, who announced the Top Hospitality Student of the Year and her runner-up. For the fourth year running, Mrs Pudel invited the two top students to spend an all-expenses paid working holiday of three months in her luxury guest house overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Portofino, Italy.
Ms Mihloti Mathye with the runner-up, Ms Audrey Maponga from Zimbabwe and the top student, Ms Cordilla Katanda, also from Zimbabwe
Ms Mihloti Mathye of the Corporate Social Investment Division of Absa Bank, another major donor of the College, handed the Absa Top Student of the Year Trophy to Ms Cordilla Katanda of Zimbabwe. Ms Katanda passed her final exams with an 85% aggregate.
Ms Caroline Rupert, member of the College Board of Directors, announced the Top Tracker Students of the Year and invited Innocent Ngwenya and Busani Mtshali to receive their prize money donated by Mrs Sal Roux. Mrs Roux spent a day with the tracker trainees while on a private visit to Londolozi Game Reserve where the Tracker Academy bushveld biome campus is located, and was so impressed with their skills and knowledge that she decided to establish the annual award for the two top students.
Ms Jo-Ann Strauss, an ex-Miss South Arica, popular TV personality, businesswoman in her own right and a firm favourite among the young tracker graduates, brought the day’s proceeding to a close by wishing the graduates well for the future.
The guests included Countess Rita Ciardi Land of Milan, Italy; the sister of Mrs Barbara Pudel, Mrs Monique Castellini of Geneva, Switzerland; Ms Thandiwe January McLean, Chief Executive of the United Negro College Fund Special Corps; Dr Harold Riley, painter to the Court of HM Queen Elizabeth II; Mr Marcel Golding, CEO of E-TV; Mr Hylton Appelbaum, trustee of the Liberty Life Education Foundation and executive trustee of the Donald Gordon Foundation, a Peace Parks Foundation Club 21 member; Mrs Wendy Appelbaum of De Morgenzon Wine Estate.She is a member of Harvard University’s Women’s Leadership Board and of the International Women’s Forum; Mr Boetie van Zyl, member of the Board of Directors of Peace Parks Foundation and Mrs Caroline van Zyl; Mr Werner Myburgh, CEO of Peace Parks Foundation and Mrs Kozette Myburgh and the Mayor of Camdeboo, Ms Hannah Makoba.
The tone for the graduation ceremony was set the evening before when Mrs Gaynor Rupert hosted a dinner for donors, supporters and friends of the College. The dinner was prepared and served by the students. Mr Nic Griffin, Chief Executive of Thornybush Collections, praised the College for its training programme. Thornybush Collections accommodate a number of graduates on internship at their luxury lodges bordering Kruger National Park annually.
A special touch was added to the evening’s proceedings when the Gugulethu Tenors of Cape Town, who entertained the dinner guests during the course of the evening, surprised Mrs Sarah Tompkins with a beautiful rendition of the traditional birthday song while a student brought in a cake baked and decorated by her and her fellow students. Mrs Tompkins owns Samara Private Game Reserve, in the Graaff-Reinet district, where the Tracker Academy students spend their first six months of the year for their semi-desert biome training. Mrs Tompkins allows trainers and students the use of accommodation and training facilities, as well as full traversing rights of the Samara land for training purposes.