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Tlou Setumu was born, grew up and went to school in the rural, impoverished Makgabeng area in the north-western part of Limpopo Province, South Africa. He started Sub-A at Noko-Tlou lower primary in 1972, and proceeded to Mogohlong higher primary, then matriculated in 1983 at GH Franz high school.
Owing to his poor family background (he was raised by a single, sickly mother), he did not have funds to continue with higher education studies. He became private teacher and was self-taught as he studied privately until obtaining BA degree in 1993 with University of South Africa (UNISA).
In 1994 he enrolled and completed Higher Education Diploma at the University of the North (current University of Limpopo). He obtained BA Honours at UNISA in 1998, and in 2001 completed MA degree at the University of Pretoria. He enrolled for PhD degree in History at Rand Afrikaanse Universiteit (currently University of Johannesburg), but later moved the programme to the University of Limpopo, where the programme was completed in 2010.
He had started as a volunteer for the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), and then worked as researcher from 2001. He established Limpopo Heritage Resources Authority (LIHRA) in 2004 while employed in the Limpopo Department of Sport, Arts and Culture. He later worked at the Robben Island museum as Head of the Department of Public Heritage Education. He is currently heritage practitioner in Limpopo Province, specialising mainly on the Blouberg-Makgabeng-Senwabarwana (BMS) area. (www.mak-herp.co.za).