Harvard Students at Maru-a-Pula

Every year, MaP students receive tutoring and mentorship from a group of extraordinary Harvard University undergraduates for eight weeks. This unique programme is made possible through the generous sponsorship of Harvard University’s Treasurer, Jim Rothenberg. Each of the Harvard students arrive with five of their favourite books to inspire reading at MaP. They advise on student writing; they assist with Maths classes and tutorials; they help senior students prepare compelling college essays; they edit student journalism and provide instruction in the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) preparations. 

The impact of the ‘Harvards’ on our students is wonderful to see. 

Meet this year’s Harvard students :

Armeen Barghi

Armeen is a sophomore at Harvard. He was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama: home of the best college football team in America. In high school, Armeen led the Student Government as President and was Captain of the Table Tennis team. He loves fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and biking with friends when the weather is nice. Armeen is thinking about concentrating on Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology. He looks forward to making life-long friendships, sharing his experiences with open-minded students and learning about and immersing himself in Botswana’s culture and traditions.


Lisa Matay

Lisa is a junior at Harvard. She is currently concentrating on Economics and Global Health and Health Policies. She was born and raised in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania. On campus, she is involved with the Harvard African Students Association, Harvard Global Health Forum and a Microfinance Initiative. Lisa is passionate about development economics and efforts to integrate Africa in the journey towards economic prosperity and poverty alleviation. She also plays for the Harvard Women’s Club Basketball team and enjoys playing team sports, particularly netball and basketball. She is eager to get to know students at Maru-a-Pula and explore Botswana.

Connor Richardson

Connor is a senior studying Integrative Biology & Psychology. He grew up in quaint Marysville, Ohio—a growing suburb of Columbus that still retains its small-town culture. Outside of the classroom, he serves as the president of the Catholic Student Association. He leads Lowell House in its quest for the inter-house sports championship title, visits Alzheimer’s patients at a local nursing home, and advises first-year students on how to best navigate their new opportunities. Some of his other interests include travelling, movie-watching, and picture-taking. He is extremely excited to pass on as much knowledge as possible, whether it be cultural or academic, to the MaP students and hopes to learn just as much from them in the process.

Excerpts from Harvard student Isaiah Peterson’s letter of thanks to Jim Rothenberg follow :

3 August, 2011

Dear Mr. Rothenberg,

Two days ago, my summer in Botswana ended, and I had to say a surprisingly difficult goodbye to the Maru-a-Pula School in Gaborone.  I am not a very sentimental person, but I have to say that it was very sad to say goodbye to all the students and teachers I had worked with the past two months.

Maru-a-Pula is an amazing place, and I want to sincerely thank you for making it possible for me to spend the summer there.  I am sure you already realize the value of investing in the Maru-a-Pula internship, but I wanted like to take a minute to articulate a little of what I think about that value….

MaP is an extremely valuable institution for Botswana because it fosters an atmosphere of rigorous academic study and because it puts a strong emphasis on community service.  I hope that the other interns and I helped to contribute to this atmosphere this summer.  One specific way I think we did contribute to this atmosphere was by emphasizing the importance of a well-rounded education. 

All of us worked one-on-one with numerous students to improve on individual writing assignments.  We read Richard III with students.  We played vocabulary games with them.  We dissected poetry with them… We strongly encouraged (forced?) students to read on their own, and then had them give us book reports on what they had read.  I can’t be sure that all these strategies were perfectly effective, but the overall response to our efforts was definitely encouraging.

I also think it is wonderful that you expanded the program this year to allow all six of us to go.  Because there were more of us, we were able to more consistently reach out to the entire school than what I believe has been done in past years.  I think this had an especially positive impact on many of the lower-form students, with whom we probably would not have been able to work very closely had there been fewer of us…. 

All this says nothing of the many ways this experience impacted me personally.  I had never left the States before coming to Botswana this summer, I cannot think of a better first international experience….Thank you for creating such an opportunity.


Isaiah T. Peterson, Harvard 2012