A group of University of Florida students was robbed at gunpoint in Monday morning in South Africa, according to the university. At least one students is from Central Florida.
None of the 21 people in the travel group were hurt, according to a university statement. The group consists of students, a staff member and a faculty member.
The group was on a bus, headed to the University of Pretoria in South Africa to visit a nearby township. The bus passed through a security gate, and a car with six armed gunmen followed the bus, according to a university statement.
The university wrote in an an e-mail the group got off the bus and the gunmen followed them into a kindergarten classroom at the school they were visiting. With kindergarteners in the room, the gunman ordered the UF group to hand over all their valuables. The group complied, and the gunmen then left.
The university’s statement adds a local resident was grazed by a bullet and another pistol-whipped. Locals had come to try to protect the UF group. The students provided them with first aid.
“I would like to first state that the last week in South Africa been nothing but enjoyable for all of us here, and we have been welcomed and treated with kindness by all those in the area,” Central Florida local Phebe Brocke wrote on Facebook.
Brocke wrote about the experience in a post, adding that she and her cohort do not blame those in the school for the unfortunate event but she is grateful that nothing worse happened.
“I have chosen to remain in South Africa for the remainder of the trip, and I look forward to learning more about this beautiful country and the kind people that live here,” she wrote.
The students are currently back at the University of Pretoria, where they met with counselors and U.S. Embassy personnel. Three of the students have chosen to return to the United States.
“We’re just tremendously thankful that everyone is OK and grateful to the local residents who came to help our group,” UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in a statement. “UF has been sending students on this trip to South Africa every two years for many years without incident. We will be evaluating this program and location moving forward.”
The study abroad trip was coordinated through the Lombardi and Stamps Scholarship program through the UF Honors Program.
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