By Morris Nabaala
The newly established Wildlife Tourism College of Maasai Mara (WTC) welcomed its first 40 students to its campus at Pardamat Conservation Area on May 4, 2023. The students are pursuing various academic programmes, including tour guiding, front office, housekeeping, food and beverage services and wildlife management.
While growing up at Mararianta, I wanted to join the Mara Safari Guides space. I am proud to be in the first class of WTC. Here, I will make my time count and live my dream.
An elated Abigael Ketuyio (inset), one of the 16 female students at the College, could not hide her joy: “While growing up at Mararianta, I wanted to join the Mara Safari Guides space. I am proud to be in the first class of WTC. Here, I will make my time count and live my dream.”
The College is a successor of the Koyiaki Guiding School, famed for churning out world-class safari guides. However, there was a need to diversify skills beyond what the Guiding School was offering. Additionally, Koyiaki was at the heart of Mara Naboisho Conservancy, with limited space for expansion, necessitating relocation to the new Pardamat site.
The lack of skills in the Mara was the push factor to set up a college, as most jobs went to communities outside the Mara. “I attended a workshop where a report commissioned by the European Union was presented, and I learnt that locals had only 2% of the jobs,” recalls Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Chairperson Dickson Kaelo, the then Manager of Koyiaki-Lemek Trust. A small group of stakeholders, including Jackson Looseyia, Ron Beaton, Rusei Ole Soit and Dickson Kaelo, conceptualised the idea of a training institution and outlined what they needed to do to actualise it.
“We distributed tasks to ourselves: Jackson Looseyia was to think about how the curriculum would look like; Ron Beaton was to look for the money; I was responsible for getting the community’s contribution, so I needed to convince the Koyiaki-Lemek Wildlife Trust to allocate a percentage of their revenue for building the school. Rusei Ole Soit was to go and convince the group ranch to allocate land. We went about our tasks,” Ole Kaelo says.
The Wildlife Tourism College of Maasai Mara, just like its predecessor, is looking to bring transformation change to the Maasai Mara.
The community and partners, including MMWCA, Basecamp Explorer Foundation Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association, have established the College to scale the impact of the Koyiaki Guiding School.
The expanded scope under WTC will ensure the availability of different skill sets in the tourism sector, especially in the Maasai Mara. The new College builds on the successes of Koyiaki Guiding School and drives towards increasing the employability of the Mara youth. Besides
WTC is unparalleled in its curriculum offerings, experiential learning, and cross-cultural immersion while facilitating essential research and an innovative sustainable financing model not seen elsewhere in East Africa. The College is looking at training 120 students in the next three years.
WTC Unique Features.
- A student, teacher, and graduate exchange programme with the Southern African Wildlife College and other participating universities;
- Integration of global and local Maasai students for mutual benefit;
- An on-site research hub with participants from 5+ key international universities; and
- A profit-sharing model which supports local students’ scholarships and operating expenses.
Nabaala is the Principal of WTC; firstname.lastname@example.org