Hawaii Pacific University student body president Selawe Tau, left, posed on campus last week with advisor Heather Hubbard. Tau, who is from Botswana, won two national awards from his country's president.

HPU student gets
2 national honors
in Botswana

The busy senior aims to become
president of his native country

By Pat Gee

Selawe Tau, a Hawaii Pacific University senior from Botswana, was too busy as a volunteer for Junior Achievement to go home to receive two national awards from his country's president in June.

It's not that Tau, a senior majoring in computers and tourism development, didn't think the awards were a great honor. It's just that Tau has a strict sense of responsibility and self-discipline, and a mission to "tell people about my country, what they can do to support us."

Instead of going home to pick up the awards, he sent his father, Steve Boseke Tau, who was delighted to meet the president and receive for his son the top "Minister's Choice" Outstanding Youth Award and a leadership award, two of the six national prizes presented every year.

Tau said he chose to go to school in Hawaii in 1988 because the isles and his South African homeland share a unique "antipodal" relationship since they occupy exact opposite positions on the globe.

In 1966, Hawaii Gov. John A. Burns led the U.S. delegation attending the celebration of Botswana becoming an independent nation from Britain's protectorate, Bechuanaland.

While the Texas-sized country is landlocked, and arid, compared to the lush, tropical island climate of Hawaii, "we both have the aloha spirit," he said.

"Hawaii is a model for us, too, a big brother to us," he said. Tau intends to take back home all he is learning about tourism development and cultural diversity while a student here.

Tau chose to attend Hawaii Pacific University particularly because "it is a good example of globalization; it has students from more than 107 countries. I've learned how people perceive others and learned about different cultures. There are people from countries I didn't even know about, and I'm able to interact with them. And I love Hawaii -- it's so diverse. I feel part of a team on everything," he said.

As president of the student government last year, Tau is pretty sure that he was the only president of a student body from Botswana, according to his research on the Internet. He is now a representative-at-large.

Tau is fervent in his mission to tell people how different Botswana is from the African nations people usually associate with "poverty, war and disease."

People shouldn't assume that all African countries are alike based on what they see in the media, Tau said.

"People tell me, 'You from Africa? How come you don't look skinny and have a big stomach (from malnutrition)?'" he said.

Botswana is distinguished by "being the most democratic country in Africa, the least corrupt country. We are blessed with good leaders; we've never had a dictator. Education plays a big role. We sponsor students to go to other countries to learn" about government and economic development.

Although one of the worst catastrophes to hit Botswana has been AIDS, Tau said his country is making strides in checking the disease by educating everyone on the need to get blood tests and ways to prevent it.

"I want the world to know what we're like. Botswana can be a model for other African countries. They can learn from us," he said.

Tau has "always wanted to be president of Botswana. And I think I can realize that dream," he said.

By becoming involved with the community as a volunteer, he is working on making his dream become a reality.

Tau has helped paint school buildings in Mililani, done beach cleanup at Magic Island, adopted a section of Kamehameha Highway in Kaneohe for maintenance, and talked to students at Ewa Beach Elementary about his country.

One of the most fulfilling and "funnest" things for him to do was helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity for a low-income family because "you are helping someone to have a better life."

Doing something to help others, "even if it is taking one moment to listen, it can be a life-saving moment -- is one of the best things you can do in your life," he said.

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