Last year the South African Orienteering Federation (SAOF) held a workshop to present the basics of orienteering to teachers from the Polokwane area. Three of these teachers came through to a ‘Come and Try It’ event the following morning. Mary Makhobotlwane, an educator from Mphachue Secondary School, brought three students with her and one of these was Ephraim Chuene, a grade 12 student at the time. Ephraim created a map of his school and has been presented by the SAOF with an award for his initiative and excellence in mapping.
Ephraim drew his first map of Mphachue Secondary shortly after his initial introduction to orienteering. What made this map, a fair representation of the school property, even more remarkable was that this talented teen had only seen one orienteering map.
Months later, SAOF hosted Mary, Ephraim and two other students from Mphachue at the annual Gauteng Orienteering Schools Camp. Here Ephraim learned orienteering skills and he had the opportunity to use another orienteering map. With this knowledge he re-drew the map to create a new orienteering map of his former school.
This map is exceptional, especially considering Ephraim’s inexperience, the absence of aerial imagery to use as a base map, his use of pacing to determine distance and scale and the inclusion of details like trees, knolls, embankments and foot paths in the correct relation to the buildings and the perimeter of the property.
Garry Morrison, President of SAOF, and Lisa de Speville, Project Manager for SAOF’s Expansion Plan, arrived at Mphachue Secondary in a thunderous downpour. Students from the school were lined up under the corridors in welcome, while music played from a PA system. Ushered into a classroom the pair were greeted by members of the school’s council, teachers, representative students and Ephraim’s parents. As Mary put it in her presentation, parents are usually only invited to come to the school when their children have done something wrong; it is nice to invite them when their children have done well too.
The afternoon’s programme included a lovely presentation by Mary, a musical item by one of students, a short presentation by Jill Mokonyama (she attended the ‘Come and Try It’ event last year), a poem by another student, the award presentation by Garry and a few words by Ephraim and each of his proud parents. Garry also presented Mary with SAOF’s ‘O in a Box’ Level 1 school orienteering programme, in honour of her efforts to introduce orienteering to her school. Tea and biscuits were accompanied by many photographs and friendly greetings.
In Mary’s presentation she spoke about navigation skills learned through orienteering and linked these back to ‘real life’. In orienteering, as in life, you have route options and you also have the ability to choose the path you would like to take to reach a destination.
Ephraim was presented with a certificate, a Silva base-plate compass and a R500 contribution towards his studies. He completed school last year and is currently in the first year of his electrical engineering studies.
Although Garry congratulated Ephraim on his skills and initiative, he also spoke about the importance and value of teachers like Mary. She was enthusiastically attended the orienteering workshop in Polokwane, she took time out of her weekend to attend the ‘Come and Try It’ event the following day and she brought students with her who she thought would enjoy the new experience. How right she was!
Mary is also running orienteering activities in the school and she encourages her students to get involved and to accept opportunities. She will bring students with her to participate in the SA Orienteering Championship events held later this month in the Haenertsburg area, which is an hour away from the school.
Mary really is key to the successful introduction of basic orienteering elements to this school as well as identifying students that will enjoy participating.
Lisa and Garry walked around the school property with Ephraim, confirming the representation of features on his map. As it is, his map consistent, reliable and accurate; it is ideal for hosting an orienteering event on the school property.
Schools in the orienteering centres of Johannesburg and Cape Town have so much available to them, including orienteering and regular participation through easy-access weekend events. Mphachue Secondary is located 30-minutes South of Polokwane in a small town. They do not have access to a multitude of sports nor facilities. They have embraced orienteering, a sport that is well suited to any terrain – urban, rural, forest and bush. It also requires little in the way of equipment once a map has been created.
Lisa and Garry left Mphachue Secondary buoyed by their warm welcome and evident appreciation of orienteering.
SAOF welcomes the participation of Mphachue Secondary students at SA Orienteering Champs in two weeks and they’ve invited Ephraim to attend a map-making workshop in early December to advance his skills.
These initiatives are part of the SAOF’s projects to grow and develop the sport of orienteering more widely within South Africa. The SAOF would like to acknowledge both the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the Department of Sports and Recreation South Africa for the financial support that makes these projects possible.