Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Welcome to the Botswana International Schools Project blog. We very much look forward to sharing our experience with you. By reading the entries you will learn about our experience and reasearch, our new friends and families, and the amazing children we met throughout our visit. Every day was meaningful. As a result of this experience, we are stronger members of our local and global communities.

Thank you for your interest and support. We are in the final stages of editing and refining our business plan. We hope to present our plan to the Bishop of Botswana and Think Tank Thuto this fall. If you would like to know more about the project please email us botswana.2008@gmail.com or ljennings@marshall.usc.edu.

The Project Announcement is below. Enjoy the blog!

Project Announcement: May 24, 2007
The USC Marshall School of Business and Think Tank Thuto, a not-for-profit organization devoted to creating educational excellence in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), have partnered to develop a comprehensive business plan for two international schools in Francistown, Botswana. Under the leadership of the Diocese of Botswana and with support from the Ministry of Education, these new schools are intended to set the bar for education in Southern Africa by operating as innovative, highly functional, and sustainable institutions. The two schools will cover primary and secondary education and will serve both those who can and cannot afford to pay for this type of education.

With the generous financial support of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, the USC Marshall School of Business, and Think Tank Thuto, five MBA students and one undergraduate business student will be traveling to Botswana under the leadership of Professor David Belasco and Lida Jennings for a two-week site visit. Throughout the site visit, the team will meet extensively with the local taskforce and government officials overseeing school development and construction. The students will also spend time with leaders at existing institutions and local families with school-age children to better understand the needs and interests of the local consumer. The end result of the project will be a formal business plan for the two international schools, written by the Marshall team and presented to the Bishop of Botswana, Reverend Trevor Mwamba, during his next visit to Los Angeles.The business plan will serve as the foundation for Think Tank Thuto’s future fundraising efforts. All monies raised will fund the construction of the Botswana International Schools.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Day 11+ Everything but ... the President?

Fortunately for us, Friday was a day of rest. Since we have collected a LOT of information and had a LOT to talk about before our meeting with the Bishop, we started the day with breakfast and a table full of notes, laptops, and photos. We had to talk about Tyler a lot, too, since it was his birthday. We even played a game of "pin the tail on the elephant", just for kicks.

Anyway... Clad in our casual, comfortable clothes (finally) we discussed the fact that we had met everyone we needed to meet, and everyone we never expected to meet, all in the name of learning as much as possible about the educational system here in Botswana. Everyone but the President of Botswana. Oh well. Maybe next time?

Father Ben arrives to tell us that we have a new appointment on our schedule for the day. We have a 3pm meeting with the President of Botswana... go figure.

Very quick dash to our respective homes for a change of clothes. What does one wear to meet with the President of a country?

Recap meeting with the Bishop where we learn that the fundraising goal for him and Think Tank Thuto is $10 million within the next 6 months. Guess we really do need a business plan, eh?

Our meeting with the President complete with security and press coverage. We were, of course, still in shock that such a meeting had even been arranged. The conversation included a short talk about education in Botswana, a "happy birthday" wish to Tyler (so typical of the standard 27th birthday, really), and photos with the President's smiling face under a USC baseball cap.

Still reeling from our crazy day, we find ourselves at the first of 4 bbq's we have enjoyed this weekend. All of our host families have invited us to their homes over the course of these last few days to celebrate a successful trip. This 1st party was in honor of the birthday boy, who was stunned and flattered by the attention. Before the night was over, he had two feasts and two birthday cakes. I think that we have mentioned many times that the people we have met here are beyond gracious and generous, yes?

Raphael, Mark, and Tyler left for LA early on Saturday morning. Interestingly enough, a few of our team members didn't return home until just a bit before their trip to the airport. When in Gaborone...

Now, fast forward just a bit.
It is now Sunday night and we are heading into our final day here in Gaborone. After a weekend of bbq's with amazing company, delicious food, excessive amount of wine, and fantastic conversation, our cups truly runneth over. We have seen so many faces, so many extremes, and so many sites/sights. We have changed as individuals and as a team, yet we know that this country is one of the most stable and productive on this continent. If we are moved by what we have seen here, what does that tell us about what exists elsewhere? As we have said before, there is so much to do. We can only hope that this project will help.

Tomorrow we finalize a press release for the local papers, take a second visit to Tshiamo Primary School (public) for some final questions, and say goodbye to all of our new friends. And, of course, pass out many gifts generously donated by the USC Bookstore.

It will be very tough to leave this place.

See Day 11 photos below!

Day 11 Photos

Our team with the President of Botswana (with hat)
Dave, His Excellency, and the Bishop

Tyler and Birthday Cake #1

Birthday Party #1

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Kids - Our First Online Album

If you don't have a gmail or picasa account, you will need to create one when you log in.

Days 8-9: More on Francistown - by Amitesh Aggarwal

After spending 6 days in Gabarone, we finally embarked on the trip to Francistown, the site of first of our international schools. The 5-hr trip in a much bigger combi (where even I can stand up straight), entertained by Dave, Ben and Mario's humor seemed like a breeze in spite of the closed quarters. The highlight of the journey was a stop at an orphanage midway at Mahalapye. The orphanage caters mostly to kids suffering from HIV, born of parents who've died of the killer disease. Although it was heartening to know that technically none of these kids were orphans as they all were cared for in the evenings by extended family members, typical of familise in Africa.

Our arrival as usual was greeted by a mob of about 70 or so 3 - 6 yr old kids. The smiles on all their faces hiding their plight completely overwhelmed us all. Dave dove in headlong, Mark completely surrounded by google-eyed kids excited by his digital camera and all of us high-fiving, shaking hands, and talking to them all. And then Lida revealed the bank of toys which gave the chaos theory a completely new definition. The chirps and shrieks for the toys were just too great.

Tyler showed the kids his soccer skills, I helped create an Ultimate Frisbee team. Deb, Lida and Mark decorated little girls with all the girly things we brought, Jeffery showed off his camera skills, while Rafael played with the groups of kids. The departure from the orphanage was saddening but we left with a mission to organize donations for a shaded playground for these kids. For those of you who are interested in assisting us, don’t worry… we will be in touch! Another highlight of the drive was when we crossed the point where Tropic of Capricorn crosses Botswana.

We arrived in Francistown to a magnificent resort - Marang hotel set in a beautiful tropical forest. Evening dinner was organized by the Anglican Church Parish in Francistown. It seems like it’s in Botswanan culture to overwhelm their guests with huge welcomes. The crowd broke out into synchronized African singing and clapping. After the pleasantries, we were treated to a huge banquet prepared at the homes of the parishioners. I had the best dinner so far in this trip as even I had at least 6 different sumptuous dishes - vegetable rice, 2 different lentils, spinach, greens, salad etc. etc. All of us mingled with the crowds and I met my first Indian family in Botswana. It was great to talk to the mom in Hindi.

After the festivities, a grand departure, we took our tired selves to the hotel for a much needed sleep. I fell asleep dreaming of Sedibeng choir, African dances and lentils.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Day 8 - Mario's Blog (Orphanage and Francistown)

Web blog day ?
I’m not a Student or a professor. Take that back. Definitely a student but not at a University. I am the cinematographer on this African endeavor.

Right now I’m sittng in a combi or obese passenger van as they call it in Bots. My right leg is melting from the lack of air circulation and space between Amitesh and I. We are traveling back to Gabarone from Francistown. A 400 Km. Expedition, or literally a cross country trip of scattered goats, donkeys, and cows that speckle the highway and demand unexpected bursts of braking and adrenaline. We actually just passed an old carriage with a group of smiling people being pulled by a pack of four graceful looking donkeys. I’m not kidding the donkeys actually looked graceful. It may have been fear from seeing the truck of cattle that was in front of us.

I’m not sure how I got my hands on the computer to partake in your blog but I’m grateful for it. I’ve been with the M.B.A.’s for a week now. I’m used to traveling the world with commercial accounts not University folk. But I’m enjoying the resources of these young stars. I can easily ask for conversions of hectacres, algorithm’s for quick approximations of Celsius to Fahrenheit, corrections on Pandemic versus epidemic or immediate explanations of why children survive birth without contracting H.I.V.

So Here I am with your friends, family, and fellow students. I’m having one hell of a life experience with these guys who I’m learning more about life and humanity than I have ever learned on any of my world travels working for large corporations. First off, No fancy rooms at five star hotels. Were living with local host families in Gaborone which really throws you right into the local culture. Secondly its not just the regions best tourist spots. Were getting to see the things that people usually try to hide from tourists. For example yesterday visiting an orphanage that had a hundred plus children age 6 to 8 who are orphaned from AIDS. Seeing the USC folks hand out gifts and spend time with these kids who had nothing but a roof really has left me challenging everything I thought I knew about life. The fact that these beautiful little kids could just be left suddenly with no parents from a disease sweeping people from existence has opened my eyes to how much worse life is than traffic on the 405.

Watching the task force get involved with these kids also changed everything I felt about privileged college students. These guys really won my respect. Documenting this trip has become very personal. Its gone from doing some volunteer service to make myself feel good about my good life to believing in an idea and wanting to see it become a reality. Today when the Bishop took us to the future site of one of the schools they are trying to build and I could actually envision this whole project coming to fruition I knew that my month in Africa was more than a cool trip to help kids get school credits and for me to add another stamp in my passport.

There’s really no way to express the way I feel right now in these cramped quarters. Instead of complaining to some producer that I should be in better seating, I am smiling and grateful for the lack of space.

I am going to sign of now because Deb’s computer may die at any second. I just want to let you know that the crew is doing an amazing job gathering information and developing a plan to help a country do something extraordinary. I am also proud to be here with these guys because I really feel I am in the presence of greatness. -Mario

Photos from the Orphan Daycare Center

the Orphan Daycare Center
As you can see, the stickers were a big hit!

Mark with the kids.

Dave with the kids.